Apple buys stake in mobile graphics chip designer

Imagination Technologies, which designs graphics cores for mobile phones, has a new corporate backer after Apple purchased a 3.6 percent stake in the company.

Future versions of Imagination Technologies' graphics cores could mean iPhone games far more sophisticated than 'Super Monkey Ball.' Apple

Apple has taken a small stake in a British chip designer, revealing how the company plans to power the graphics in future iPhones and iPod Touches.

Imagination announced Thursday that Apple has acquired a 3.6 percent stake in the company, which will only cost Apple 3.2 million pounds, or about $5 million. Imagination designs chip cores for a variety of applications, but its most prominent designs are its PowerVR cores for graphics in mobile phones.

That is believed to be the source of Apple's interest in the company, according to AppleInsider, which has tracked Apple's interest in the PowerVR technology for some time. Earlier this year Imagination announced that a "international electronic systems company" had acquired a license for the PowerVR graphics cores, and in Thursday's press release, Imagination said Apple was also a licensee.

The PowerVR cores will likely sit alongside the ARM-based processor core designs that the former P.A. Semi team is believed to be developing for future iPhones. Imagination has also signed a manufacturing license deal with iPhone processor maker Samsung, perhaps a sign that Apple will continue to use Samsung as a manufacturing partner once the P.A. Semi designs are complete.

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