Apple to build its GPU would be the biggest significant technical leap at this point and this new piece of hardware will power the iPhone 8 graphics chipset. This is not for cost saving, rather building own GPU will cost Apple more than $100 million of R&D per annum.
GPU development by Apple is not new. Reportedly the company is working on this for past 4 years and has hired number of GPU designers near Oreland’s, by 2013. It’s still a question, why company would develop their own GPU, when it already own stake in Imagination Technologies. Apple pays less than $100 million for license Imaginations’ PowerVR GPU design.
In 2014, Apple introduced its parallel graphics shift; Metal API. The reason of developing Metal GPU was to enable strict customization of IOS development to the subset of graphic, so that Apple’s Metal code could use available GPU and radically use tons of irrelevant overheads.
OpenGL was deigned to amenably work across OS and GPU architecture. This amenability instead of providing ease to the company become an issue. It limits the ability to optimize the performance. Other companies like Microsoft, Nvidia and AMD had already start building their own Graphics Architecture to focus on their strength. For Apple Metal dose the same.
Imaginations’ PowerVR GPU is aimed to solve wide variety of license working on various products. Latest major by the company Furian mobile GPU is set to release in couple of years. The company’s description about the Furian is “designed to scale efficiently to the higher performance points required for applications such as AR and VR,” and touts its “leadership in its existing markets such as mobile, tablets and automotive.”
Across the decades, PowerVR has served Apple as compare to OpenGL. However, the generic functionality and design of PowerVR and companies slow independent moves are some major reasons why Apple is designing its own GPU.
The Sans Francisco GPU
Another reason of Apple developing its own GPU is the introduction of highly optimized status quo technology is the Sans Francisco Fonts in 2014. Apple developed these fonts specifically for its products and had been used in Apple watch already. The purpose was to enhance the legibility of texts and its small display.
Earlier Apple was using variety of fonts for different purpose. Converging on one custom built font family was used to severe many technical issues, also creating constant form. One feature of Sans Francisco is its built-in dynamic approach of adjusting text size, weight, leading and tracking to remain consistent. The use of Sans Francisco is continually spanning from small watch to large screen.
Apple is almost certain to replace PowerVR on certain devices where it’s needed more and embedding its own custom made GPU; Metal. Apple is taking similar broad approach as it did to develop Sans Francisco fonts.
The APFS GPU
Another broad technology Apple is working on Apple File System (APFS). The technology was announced last year and has already been deployed in IOS 10.3. Apples previous file system HFS+ had some serious known issues that were big hurdle in performance and to enhance the current platform. APSF is designed to replace HFS+ to accommodate growth and upcoming needs.
Apple sensed a decade ago that future will be of super phones with the power to run desktop class applications, rather than using decade old technology originally designed in 90’s for Pagers or PDA’s.
Apple can do much to develop new era GPU’s for its mobile devices. Company using new designed GUP could incorporate ray tracing rendering for photorealistic images with real time shadows. There are so many areas where custom made power GPU can take IOS devices to the top spot.