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MIPS Computer Systems

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Title: MIPS Computer Systems  
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MIPS Computer Systems

Coordinates: 37°25′12″N 122°04′22″W / 37.4201°N 122.0728°W / 37.4201; -122.0728

MIPS Technologies, Inc.
Industry RISC microprocessors
Founded 1984
Headquarters Sunnyvale, California, United States
Key people Sandeep Vij
Products Semiconductor intellectual property
Employees 146 (September 2010)
Parent Imagination Technologies

MIPS Technologies, Inc., formerly MIPS Computer Systems, Inc., was an US fabless semiconductor design company that is most widely known for developing the MIPS architecture and a series of RISC CPU chips.[1][2] MIPS provides processor architectures and cores for digital home, networking and mobile applications.[3][4]

On 8 February 2013[5] MIPS Technologies, Inc. was acquired by Imagination Technologies after CEVA, Inc. pulled out of the bidding. Imagination Technologies is a UK-based company best known for their PowerVR graphic chips family.


MIPS Computer Systems Inc. was founded in 1984[6][7] by a group of researchers from Stanford University that included John L. Hennessy, as a vendor of microprocessor chips.[8] Other principal founders were Skip Stritter, formerly a Motorola technologist, and John Moussouris, formerly of IBM.

The initial CEO was Vaemond Crane, who left early and was replaced by Bob Miller, a former senior IBM and Data General executive. Miller ran the company through its IPO and subsequent sale to Silicon Graphics.

In 1988, MIPS Computer Systems designs were noticed by Silicon Graphics (SGI) and the company adopted the MIPS architecture for its computers.[9] A year later, in December 1989, MIPS held its first IPO.

After developing the R2000 and R3000 microprocessors, a management change brought along the larger dreams of being a computer vendor. The company found itself unable to compete in the computer market against much larger companies and was struggling to support the costs of developing both the chips and the systems (MIPS Magnum). To secure the supply of future generations of MIPS microprocessors (the 64-bit R4000), SGI acquired the company in 1992[10] for $333 million[11][12] and renamed it as MIPS Technologies Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SGI.[13]

During SGI's ownership of MIPS, the company introduced the R8000 in 1994 and the R10000[14] in 1996 and a follow up the R12000 in 1997.[15] During this time, two future microprocessors code-named The Beast and Capitan were in development; these were cancelled after SGI decided to migrate to the Itanium architecture[16] in 1998.[11][17] As a result, MIPS was spun out as an intellectual property licensing company, offering licences to the MIPS architecture as well as microprocessor core designs.

On June 30, 1998, MIPS held an IPO after raising about $16.3 million with an offering price of $14 a share.[9][18][19] In 1999, SGI announced it would overhaul its operations; it planned to continue introducing new MIPS processors until 2002, but its server business would include Intel’s processor architectures as well.[20] SGI spun MIPS out completely on June 20, 2000 by distributing all its interest as stock dividend to the stockholders.

In early 2008 MIPS laid-off 28 employees from its processor business group. On August 13, 2008, MIPS announced a loss of $108.5 million for their fiscal fourth-quarter and that they would lay-off another 15% of their workforce. At the time MIPS had 512 employees.[21]

Some notable people who worked in MIPS: James Billmaier,[22] Steve Blank,[23] Joseph DiNucci,[24] John L. Hennessy,[25] David Hitz,[26] Earl Killian,[27][28] Dan Levin,[29] John Mashey,[30] John P. McCaskey, Bob Miller,[31] Stratton Sclavos.[32] and Skip Stritter.[33] Board members included: Bill Davidow.

In 2010, Sandeep Vij was named CEO of MIPS Technologies.[34] Vij studied under Dr. John Hennessy as a Stanford University grad student.[34] Prior to taking over at MIPS, Vij was an executive at Cavium Networks,[34] Xilinx and Altera.[35]

EE Times reported that MIPS had 150 employees as of November 1, 2010.[36] If the August 14th, 2008 EDN article[21] was accurate about MIPS having over 500 employees at the time, then MIPS reduced their total workforce by 70% between 2008 and 2010.

In addition to its headquarters in Sunnyvale, California,[37] MIPS has development facilities in Shanghai, China and Beaverton, Oregon.[38] It also has offices in Hsin-chu, Taiwan; Tokyo, Japan; Remscheid, Germany and Haifa, Israel.[39]

It is expected at the first quarter of year 2013, 498 out of 580 of its patents will be sold to Bridge Crossing which was created by Allied Security Trust, and all the other parts of the company sold to Imagination Technologies Group.[40]

On 17 December 2012, Imagination Technologies beat Ceva Inc in the race to buy processing technology firm MIPS with a knockout offer of $100 million.[41]

Company timeline

  • 1981: Dr. John Hennessy at Stanford University leads research in building a microprocessor using RISC principles.
  • 1984: MIPS Computer Systems, Inc. co-founded by Dr. John Hennessy, Skip Stritter, and Dr. John Moussouris[42]
  • 1986: First product ships: R2000 microprocessor, Unix workstation, and optimizing compilers
  • 1988: R3000 microprocessor
  • 1989: First IPO in November as MIPS Computer Systems with Bob Miller as CEO
  • 1991: R4000 microprocessor
  • 1992: SGI acquires MIPS Computer Systems. Transforms it into internal MIPS Group, and then incorporates and renames it to MIPS Technologies, Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of SGI)
  • 1994 R8000 microprocessor
  • 1996 R10000 microprocessor
  • 1996: Nintendo 64 released, incorporating a cut down R4300 processor.
  • 1998: Re-IPO as MIPS Technologies, Inc
  • 2002: Acquires Algorithmics Ltd, a UK-based MIPS development hardware/software and consultancy company.
  • September 6, 2005: Acquires First Silicon Solutions (FS2), a Lake Oswego, Oregon company as a wholly owned subsidiary. FS2 specializes in silicon IP, design services and OCI (On-Chip Instrumentation) development tools for programming, testing, debug and trace of embedded systems in SoC, SOPC, FPGA, ASSP and ASIC devices.
  • 2007: MIPS Technologies acquires Portugal-based mixed-signal intellectual property company Chipidea
  • February, 2009: MIPS Joins Linux Foundation[43]
  • May 8, 2009: Chipidea is sold to Synopsys.
  • June, 2009: Android is ported to MIPS[44]
  • September 30, 2009: MIPS Technologies joins the Open Handset Alliance[45]
  • January, 2010: Sandeep Vij appointed as CEO[46]
  • January, 2011: MIPS introduces the first Android-MIPS based Set top box at CES[47]
  • April, 2011: MIPS Technologies ports Google’s Android 3.0, “Honeycomb”, to the MIPS’ architecture[48][49]
  • Aug, 2012: MIPS Technologies ports Google's Android 4.1, "Jelly Bean". With Indian company Karbonn Mobiles announces world's second tablet running Android 4.1.[50]
  • February 8, 2013: MIPS Technologies is sold to Imagination Technologies. [51]


Main article: List of MIPS microprocessor cores

MIPS Technologies creates the processor architecture that is licensed to chip makers.[52][53] The company has 125+ licensees who ship more than 500 million MIPS-based processors each year.[54]

MIPS Technologies’ processor architectures and cores are used in home entertainment,[55] networking[56] and communications products. The company licenses its 32- and 64-bit architectures as well as 32-bit cores.[57]

The MIPS32 architecture is a high-performance 32-bit instruction set architecture (ISA) that is used in applications such as 32-bit microcontrollers, home entertainment, home networking devices and mobile designs.[58] MIPS customers license the architecture to develop their own processors or license off-the-shelf cores from MIPS that are based on the architecture.[59]

The MIPS32 cores include the 4K, M14K,[58] 24K,[60] 34K,[61] 74K,[62] 1004K[63] (multicore and multithreaded) and the 1074K (superscalar and multithreaded) families.

The MIPS64 architecture is a high performance 64-bit instruction set architecture that is widely used in networking infrastructure equipment through MIPS licensees such as Cavium Networks[64] and NetLogic Microsystems.[65]

SmartCE (Connected Entertainment) is a reference platform that integrates Android, Adobe Flash platform for TV, Skype, the Home Jinni ConnecTV application and other applications.[66][67] SmartCE lets OEM customers create integrated products more quickly.


MIPS Technologies has a strong customer licensee base in home electronics and portable media players; 75 percent of Blu-ray Disc players are running on MIPS Technologies processors.[68] In the digital home, the company’s processors are predominately found in digital TVs and set-top boxes.[66] The Sony PlayStation Portable uses two processors based on the MIPS32 4K processor.

Within the networking segment, licensees include Cavium Networks and Netlogic Microsystems.[56] Cavium has used up to 16 MIPS cores for its OCTEON family network reference designs.[69] Netlogic ships Linux-ready MIPS64-based XLP, XLR, and XLS multicore, multithreaded processors.[70] Licensees using MIPS to build smartphones and tablets include Actions Semiconductor and Ingenic Semiconductor.[71] Tablets based on MIPS include the Cruz tablets from Velocity Micro.[72] TCL Corporation is using MIPS processors for the development of smartphones.[73]

Companies can also obtain an MIPS 'architectural licence for designing their own CPU cores using the MIPS instruction set. Distinct MIPS architecture implementations by licensees include Broadcom's BRCM 5000.

Other licensees include Broadcom, which has developed MIPS-based CPUs for over a decade,[74] Microchip Technology, which leverages MIPS processors for its 32-bit PIC32 microcontrollers,[75] Qualcomm Atheros, MediaTek and Mobileye, whose EyeQ2 and EyeQ3 are based on cores licensed from MIPS.[76]

Operating Systems

MIPS Technologies is predominately used in conjunction with Android and Linux operating systems.[77] There are also a few NetBSD ports for MIPS[78]

Android: Google’s Android operating system that is processor-agnostic,[54] is built on the Linux kernel.[79] MIPS originally ported Android to its architecture for embedded products beyond the mobile handset, where it was originally targeted by Google.[80] In 2010, MIPS and its licensee Sigma Designs announced the world’s first Android set-top boxes.[81] By porting to Android, MIPS processors power smartphones and tablets running on the operating system.[82]

Real-time operating systems that run on MIPS include CMX System, eCosCentric,[83] ENEA,[84] Express Logic,[85] FreeRTOS, Green Hills Software, LynuxWorks, Mentor Graphics, Micrium, QNX Software Systems, Quadros Systems Inc., Segger and Wind River.


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