Imagination’s newest CEO made it a priority to make up with Apple

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Apple patches things up with mobile GPU maker Imagination
The CEO who helped bring Touch ID tech to the iPhone helped patch up damaged relationship with mobile GPU maker.
Photo: Apple

An Apple-friendly CEO may be the reason Apple patched up its relationship with mobile GPU maker Imagination Technologies, a new report from the Telegraph newspaper suggests.

The publication features an interview with CEO Ron Black. Black took over as CEO and President of Imagination in 2018, one year after Apple and the chipmaker fell out, causing shares to plummet.

“[When I was offered the job at Imagination, bosses] didn’t really tell me what to do, they just said, you’ve got to fix this,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve done over the last year.”

The article notes that Black had a good relationship with Apple. He had worked with the company before. In 2011, he even sold a business to Apple, which it used as the basis for the fingerprints sensors in the iPhone. The article doesn’t go into detail about this. However, a look at Black’s LinkedIn profile shows that he was Executive Chairman, and later Chairman and CEO, of a company called UPEK. A September 2010 press release shows that UPEK and AuthenTec merged to become the biggest provider of fingerprint sensor and identity management services worldwide. Apple bought the company in 2012 for an estimated $355 million. This formed the origins of Touch ID, which Apple debuted the next year on the iPhone 5s.

Black doesn’t give much away regarding the falling out with Apple. In 2017, Imagination confirmed that Apple was designing its own chips and would drop Imagination’s tech in 15 to 24 months’ time. It also said it was skeptical that Apple would be able to develop its own GPUs without stealing Imagination property.

Imagination CEO helped bring Touch ID to Apple

Apple introduced its first custom GPU as part of the A11 chip in 2018. It also used its own custom GPU in the A-series chip in last year’s iPhone refresh. Imagination claims that its new IMG A-Series GPU is the fastest GPU IP ever released. The two companies revealed that they had patched things up earlier this year.

“Both parties probably didn’t do something correct,” Black told the Telegraph. He said that any conflict can be resolved if “you just talk to people … and there was the change in leadership.”

Imagination’s business relied on Apple. Around half of the company’s revenue came from Apple. When Apple got out of the Imagination business, shares in Imagination declined 70% in a single day. Chinese private equity firm Canyon Bridge wound up purchasing Imagination. It did this for around one-quarter of its peak value half a decade earlier.

Source: Telegraph (paywall)