IPhone code trail points to MBX graphics core
July 06, 2007 //
Evidence is building that the PowerVR MBX core from Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England) is providing the graphics processing in the Apple iphone. That would make for about five or six processor cores inside the iPhone all designed by U.K. companies but manufactured by others.
LONDON Evidence had been building in recent days that the PowerVR MBX core from Imagination Technologies (Kings Langley, England) is providing the graphics processing in the Apple iphone. That would make for about five or six processor cores inside the iPhone all designed by U.K. companies but manufactured by others.
Imagination has declined to confirm the design win although detective work by members of the Beyond 3D Forum has revealed references to MBX in Apple iPhone firmware.
The originator of the "PowerVR MBX in iPhone" discussion thread at the forum referred readers to a flash memory firmware dump on an iPhone developers' Wiki site called iPhone Dev Wiki.
The original evidence was some references to a device type identified as 0x78626D. 0x78626D happens to be xbm, which is mbx backwards, the writer asserted. However another contributor to the forum pointed out that the MBX libraries are referred to in crash logs also listed at the same iPhone site.
Soon other forum members were finding references to graphics-related MBX device strings in cache dumps from the iPhone, including text strings such as "AppleMBXDevice(%p): Graphics hang with pending 2D blit." Some members of the forum appeared unfamiliar with Imagination or the PowerVR MBX core, wondering whether it was a stand-alone chip or included in the system chip.
An elephantine memory or a diligent search of the EE Times archives would have reminded forum members that Samsung licensed the PowerVR MBX 3D graphics processor developed by Imagination Technologies Group plc, from ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) back in January 2004. At that time ARM was licensing out Imagination's cores as well as its own, although the two companies subsequently parted ways.
Of course Imagination has likely worked with Samsung to provide a later version of PowerVR MBX, and certainly one tuned for a more recent manufacturing process technology.
And so the evidence starts to become compelling, but what does Imagination say? A spokesman for Imagination said: "We can't say whether we are designed into the Apple iPhone." The spokesman added: "Samsung is an MBX licensee. They are active. They are a current licensee."
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