Imagination Technologies today announced (via Design & Reuse) its financial results for the first half of 2021, which show the company is poised for a revival of sorts after achieving a 55% revenue increase YoY, capturing $76 million compared to 2020's $49 million. And on the back of these results, Imagination has thus announced its next steps in extending its reach and doubling down on market success: the development and launch of a RISC-V CPU family, which will cater to both the discrete CPU market as well as the heterogeneous computing landscape. The company's currently most well-known products (at least from the consumer point of view) are based on its graphics IP, with Imagination's PowerVR graphics being integrated in all manner of smartphone chips. Adding to their graphics capabilities with an in-house interpretation of RISC-V seems like a sensible, next logical step. Interestingly, the company has already introduced a RISC-V training course back in September 2020 - perhaps the company's earliest show of hand regarding their aspirations for the architecture.
RISC-V is an open instruction set architecture (ISA) managed by the RISC-V foundation, a non-profit organization started in 2015. The original 29-member team has seen a veritable success, growing from its original 29 members to more than two thousand parties all building upon the architecture - of which modularity is one of the key aspects. And unlike Arm, RISC-V asks for no licensing costs - one key reason for its overwhelming growth since introduction. And don't think that it being open source and free of licensing costs means that this is a substandard, cost-cutting architecture - the open source architecture has been making headways into the Supercomputing and Machine Learning markets, and a 1000-core Supercomputer-on-a-chip design has been recently announced from Esperanto.
Besides this entry into the CPU space with RISC-V, Imagination looked back on the state of the market and its product portfolio's capability to compete and provide meaningful choices for customers around the globe. The company placed at least part of its success on the ongoing race to vehicle electrification, which increases requirements for more complex, and more varied integrated circuits in vehicle design so as to cope with the increased electrical and systems engineering requirements for such cars. Imagination pitches itself as one of the leading players in the field of Human Machine Interfacing (HMI) - and its IP, technology and products have been building on this strength to allow the company to enter the autonomous vehicle market. Both its GPU and AI technologies are now being deployed in this sphere, and the company has brought a new EPP (Ethernet Packet Processor) offering to market that aims to connect ever more complex automotive systems.
Simon Beresford-Wylie, Imagination Technologies CEO, said regarding these advancements that: “The strong set of first half results, together with the healthy pipeline of opportunities, confirms we are executing well against our refreshed strategy. We’re focused on the right segments and the right geographies. It’s also gratifying to see that Imagination is back to growth and generating solid profits and free cash-flow. My sense is that we now have good momentum and I look forward to building on the turnaround that we have affected.’’
Imagination make their business model to pure licensing only because they cannot really take the heat on desktop market before. Another problem is the company seems very reluctant to invest on better software for their hardware. That's why despite having one of the best gpu design on mobile no other soc maker really license their design.