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MIPS Gets a New Home

Hey, wanna buy a CPU company? You’re too late, because MIPS Technologies was just sold for $60 million in cash. If that’s more than you have in your pocket, it’s still a tiny sum for a company that helped pioneer the idea of RISC processors. Once the deal goes through, the MIPS processor familiy will belong to Imagination Technologies, the same IP company that offers PowerVR graphics, HelloSoft code, Ensigma network IP, and other doodads for SoC developers. Now MIPS becomes the jewel in Imagination’s crown.

Interestingly, Imagination gets only 82 of MIPS’s collection of 580 patents. The other 498 were bought by a little-known firm called Allied Security Trust (AST). And that part of the sale cost $350 million — almost six times as much as the company itself. Even more interesting, MIPS arch-rival ARM put up about one-third of that purchase price. So ARM now has part-ownership of the bulk of MIPS’s patents.

Not to worry, though. Imagination has perpetual rights to the entire patent portfolio, not just the 82 it bought. And the company will continue to license and market MIPS processor cores, including the newer Aptiv designs. They’ll just be coming from a different company.

It’s no secret that MIPS was having financial trouble and was looking for a buyer. Still, it’s sad to see the company broken up and sold off. MIPS Computer Systems was one of the early RISC pioneers. The company spun off Silicon Graphics as well as MIPS Technologies, for the purpose of licensing its innovative high-performance CPUs. Alas, MIPS never got the kind of traction that ARM got, and it was all downhill from there. Ironically, most of its corporate IP is now in ARM’s hands.

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