Future Roadmap & Final Thoughts

The new A-Series architecture means to represent a reset for Imagination’s product offerings, representing a bright new future for the company. The new GPU IP is certainly impressive in terms of the PPA metrics that it promises to achieve, and if realized, it does have ramifications for the wider industry and the competitive landscape.

But even if the A-series can deliver on all of Imagination's promises, the company can't stop there. The competition is continuing to refine and improve their designs, and so must Imagination. To that end, along with today's announcement of the A-series, Imagination is also publishing a very broad roadmap for the next few years, outlining the upcoming GPU generations and their expected performance gains. All of this is especially important for SoC designers, who want to know what's coming down the pipe before making the effort to switch IP vendors.

Imagination’s roadmap following the A-Series is seemingly very aggressive, promising yearly updates going forward, with large annual performance increases of 1.3x, or a 30% yearly compound annual growth rate. This is a much bigger goal than we’re used to historically, but it’s very much in line with the pace of progress we’ve seen from some vendors in the past, or even what Apple has managed to recently achieve over the last two generations.

For the A-Series, Imagination has adopted a public announcement schedule more similar to Arm’s, meaning that the A-Series has already been finished and licensed out to customers, with SoCs being designed and prepared to hit the market for 2020 – we’re assuming the latter part of 2020.

The B-Series is already well under way in terms of development and projected to be completed by next summer if the roadmap is to be taken as an accurate schedule, so at least Imagination has a strong path forward.

What’s important here for Imagination, is managing to actually achieve design wins for the new GPU IP in meaningful higher volume sockets. In terms of possible customers, it’s an increasingly small list, with most of them being the smaller Chinese SoC vendors such as RockChip, Unisoc (formerly Spreadtrum). Samsung is an unlikely client given their plans with AMD as well as custom GPU development, unless there happens to be some opportunity in the low and mid-range segments. HiSilicon likely is tied to Arm, if their plans of a custom GPU don’t pan out. This leaves MediaTek as one of the bigger clients, with the most opportunity and likelihood of adopting the A-Series. Holding onto more MediaTek SoC wins, instead of having them flip-flop between PowerVR and Mali, would be a big win for Imagination and its GPU group. With MediaTek now having re-entered the flagship SoC market, it seems like a very good match.

The wider semiconductor industry is said to be in an architecture revival phase, realizing the need for stronger designs in order to make up for decreasing yearly improvements in process performance. Imagination’s A-Series here seems to be a perfect example of such a revitalization, bringing with it massively impressive generational jumps. If the improvements pan out in practice, I do believe it could be a turning point for the company, and in the future we indeed might look back on it as being the most important launch in the company’s mobile history.

PPA Projections - Significant, If Delivered
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  • The_Assimilator - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    So what you're saying is that this "fastest GPU IP ever created" has theoretical throughput figures that are lower than a two-generation-old midrange desktop parts.

    Man, it's gonna be exciting when this is released and it's total unmitigated shite, like every mobile GPU ever.
    Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - link

    For me a more useful comparison point is the consoles. Xbox One S is 1.4 TFLOPS, PS4 is 1.84 TFLOPS, and, more to the point, Switch supposedly reaches 1 TFLOPS for 16 bit at maximum, but in practice, and for 32 bit, it's around 400 GFLOPS (when docked).

    So in theory the AXT-64-2048 could make for quite a decent low power console chip, and a good upgrade venue for Nintendo.

    (Sure, Xbox and PS have moved a little forward since then, and will move more next year, but, as an owner of a One S, I still find it quite impressive what can be achieved with this kind of GPU power.)
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - link

    Nintendo Switch uses the Tegra X1, which was made to be a high-end tablet SoC. So, by extension, it's not surprising that a modern candidate for that application would potentially be a worthy successor for the Switch.

    Speaking of set top consoles, you're citing 2013-era models (okay, the One S is more recent, but really a small tweak on the original spec). If you instead look at the PS4 Pro and One X, then you'll see that the set top consoles have moved far beyond this GPU.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    The just lost it, now even qorse with amd makibg its return to arm socs. Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    Imagination was in trouble for a long time. The reason Apple, and Microsoft before that, left, was because Imagination refused to go along with requests from both companies for custom IP. Apple, for example needed more work on AI and ML. Imagination refused to work on that for them, which was a major mistake, as Apple was half their business, and generating more than half of their profit.

    When Apple announced they were developing their own GPU, they said that within two years they would no longer be using any Imagination IP. Imagination confirmed that. The assumption there was that older SoCs that Apple would continue to use for other devices would still incorporate the IP until they had been superseded by newer versions.

    It’s believed that newer Apple SoCs contain no Imagination IP.

    It’s interesting to see that this new Imagination IP seems to be close to what Apple wanted, but what Imagination refused to give them. A fascinating turnabout. Now it remains to be seen whether this serious improvement upon their older IP is really competitive with the newest IP from others, when it actually is in production, assuming it will really be used.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    > When Apple announced they were developing their own GPU, they said that within two years they would no longer be using any Imagination IP. Imagination confirmed that.

    The only thing Imagination confirmed is that Apple told them that. Ironically all those press releases and all official mentions of this have disappeared from both companies, which is essentially a sign that the two companies burried the hatchets and they came under some form of agreement.

    > It’s believed that newer Apple SoCs contain no Imagination IP.

    Well no, we're still here two years later. Apple's GPUs still very much look like PowerVR GPUs with similar block structures, they are still using IMG's proprietary TBDR techniques, and even publicly expose proprietary features such as PVRTC. Saying Apple GPUs contain none of IMG's IP is just incompetent on the topic.
    Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    Well, I’m going by what Apple themselves have said. So if you think they’re lying, good for you. But I’ll take their statements as fact first. Reply
  • Qasar - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    just like you seem to do with intel ??? Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - link

    You saw that Andrei worked there 'till 2017, right? So, yeah, go ahead and argue with him. You're obviously the expert, here. Reply
  • Korguz - Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - link

    mode_13h, of course he is. he believes all the lies and BS that intel is also saying.... Reply

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