MIPS, execution culture and getting into AI

March 20, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
Jim Nicholas reckons that the establishment of an "execution culture" and certain multithreading advantages of MIPS processor architectures are starting to help a more agile business unit obtain design wins. And Nicholas wants to use that agility to get MIPS deeper into machine learning.

Nicholas, now an executive vice president at Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England), has been responsible for the MIPS business unit since May 2014. He has a variety of engineering and management positions on his CV including time spent at STMicroelectronics, ST-Ericsson and ARM. But at Imagination he has seen his former CEO –  Sir Hossein Yassaie – stepping down in February 2016 under the cloud of losses at the company, and some other senior executives departing the company.


Jim Nicholas, executive vice president and MIPS
business unit general manager at Imagination
Technologies Group plc.

It could be argued that the acquisition of MIPS by Imagination back in 2013 was itself a mistake. Not least because it encouraged the comparison of CPU-graphics bundles from rival IP licensor ARM Ltd. (Cambridge, England) and Imagination to benefit of ARM. That is comparisons of Cortex-Mali versus MIPS-PowerVR rather than best-in-class comparisons of GPUs that might have favoured Imagination's PowerVR. Certainly, the breadth of Imagination's portfolio contributed to losses in 2016 and a restructuring that is now almost complete.

Nicholas said: "We've reduced six business entities to three." The remaining three business units are PowerVR GPUs, MIPS CPUs and Ensigma radio and connectivity cores.

What’s gone is the DAB digital radio operation Pure, which has been sold. Imagination also ran IMG-Works as a chip design operation for putting together system-chip platforms based on IP cores and that is in the process of being sold, said Nicholas. And IMG-Systems which added firmware and software on top of IP cores, and was responsible for Imagination's Creator board, has been folded into the MIPS business unit.

Next: A clean slate