Today Samsung and AMD announced a new multi-year strategic partnership between the two companies, where Samsung SLSI will license graphics IP from AMD for use in mobile GPUs.

The announcement is a major disruptive move for the mobile graphics landscape as it signifies that Samsung is going forward with the productization of their own in-house GPU architecture in future Exynos chipsets.

Samsung is said to have started work on their own “S-GPU” at its research division back around in 2012, with the company handing over the new IP to a new division called “ACL”, or Advanced Computing Lab in San Jose, which has a joint charter with SARC (Samsung Austin R&D Center, where Samsung currently designs its custom mobile CPU & memory controller IP).

With today’s announced partnership, Samsung will license “custom graphics IP” from AMD. What this IP means is a bit unclear from the press release, but we have some strong pointers on what it might be.

Samsung’s own GPU architecture is already quite far along, having seen 7 years of development, and already being integrated in test silicon chipsets. Unless the deal was signed years ago and only publicly announced today, it would signify that the IP being talked about now is a patent-deal, rather than new architectural IP from AMD that Samsung would integrate in their own designs.

Samsung’s new GPU IP is the first from-scratch design in over a decade, in an industry with very old incumbents with massive patent-pools. Thus what today’s announcement likely means is likely that Samsung is buying a patent-chest from AMD in order to protect themselves from possible litigation from other industry players.

Of course, it is also possible that today’s announcement could signify Samsung’s abandoning of its own in-house core compute design in favour of AMD’s new IP. The announcement specifically mentions “custom graphics IP based on the recently announced, highly-scalable RDNA graphics architecture”, and Dr. Lisa Su also mentions “significantly expanding the Radeon user base and development ecosystem.”. The latter quote of expanding the development ecosystem wouldn’t make sense if the licensed IP would be solely patent related.

The licensing deal mentions coverage for mobile devices, including smartphones, which complement AMD product offerings, which in a way could preclude Samsung from using the new IP in larger form-factors such as laptops.

Dr. Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO:

“Adoption of our Radeon graphics technologies across the PC, game console, cloud and HPC markets has grown significantly and we are thrilled to now partner with industry leader Samsung to accelerate graphics innovation in the mobile market, this strategic partnership will extend the reach of our high-performance Radeon graphics into the mobile market, significantly expanding the Radeon user base and development ecosystem.”

Inyup Kang, president of Samsung Electronics’ S.LSI Business:

“As we prepare for disruptive changes in technology and discover new opportunities, our partnership with AMD will allow us to bring groundbreaking graphics products and solutions to market for tomorrow’s mobile applications. We look forward to working with AMD to accelerate innovations in mobile graphics technologies that will help take future mobile computing to the next level.”

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  • mode_13h - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    So, did Imageon basically become the new name of the ArtX team? Or did they get fully-integrated into the core of ATI's organization before that team was formed?
  • Wardrive86 - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    Would like to know this also
  • eldakka - Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - link

    They _probably_ bought a set period of time non-compete as well. Maybe that has finally expired.
  • ToTTenTranz - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    Qualcomm bought the architecture and IP for the Xbox's Xenos graphics chip, as well as the team behind its development.
  • RaduR - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    They could easily buy Imagination (powerVR ) as Apple managed to almost destroy the company !
  • eastcoast_pete - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    I wondered about Imagination's graphics IP, too. It was/is a reasonably capable architecture, and likely available for pennies on the dollar, given the shape the company is in. The one (big) fly in the ointment is probably that many/most/all key people there have since left, and IP w/o the people who know it and can make sense of it is can be borderline useless.
  • mode_13h - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    According to Wikipedia:

    "on 25 September 2017, the board of directors announced that the company was being acquired by Canyon Bridge, a China-aligned private equity fund."

    So, it's not necessarily on the market.
  • mode_13h - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    And, to your point about the talent departing, private equity funds do have a reputation for firing lots of people and milking existing contracts and IP. So, it could be the case that Imagination Technologies is already little more than a husk of its former self.
  • tkSteveFOX - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    Makes sense. AMD did help engineer Samsung's M4 core and I think we all know by now that Samsung's GPU department hasn't produced anything to even reach ARM's Mali perf-per-watt, let alone Adreno or Apple's iGPU.
    Licensing AMD's technology might put them back on the table + 8K TVs will require immense gpu power, which current mobile tech can't handle.
  • Human000 - Monday, June 3, 2019 - link

    Can you link the source for " AMD did help engineer Samsung's M4 core "

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