Grab someone in the street and ask them about Imagination Technologies and they're more likely to run away than tell you that it's the company that designs the graphics chips for Apple's mobile devices. The company is more than just the home of PowerVR, however, and bought MIPS in order to become a direct rival to ARM, its more famous UK chip-design neighbor. Now, the company has decided to produce a Raspberry Pi-style development board in the hope of taking MIPS mainstream, describing it as "Raspberry Pi on steroids." Aside from the differences in hardware and chip architecture between the two devices, there's one big change in approach: Imagination Technologies is giving its board away for free.
The romantically-named MIPS Creator CI20 is a barebones board that's capable of running Linux distros like Debian 7, as well as Android 4.4, and measures 90.2mm by 95.3mm. The hardware is packing a 1.2GHz MIPS32 CPU, 1 GB RAM and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU - the same GPU that is used inside Google Glass, Kindle Fire, Razr I and Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. Combining that graphical prowess with dedicated video controllers that'll support 1080p at 60fps makes the CI20 ideal as a barebones HTPC, something the company takes great pains to point out. There's also 8GB of on-board storage and a full-size SD card reader, a step up from both the BeagleBone Black and the Pi Model B+. Connectivity-wise, in addition to the usual Ethernet port, the CI20 also comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi as well as two full USB ports and a HDMI-out port.
Of course, you're probably itching to find out how to get hold of one of these for precisely zero money, but it won't be as simple as fluttering your eyelashes in the direction of its Kings Langley HQ. The company is asking that you sign up on its online store (it's in the source link) to register, offering up both your personal details as well as the details of the project you're planning to develop -- for instance, a nice HTPC -- with the hardware. The company will then work with you to garner feedback from your projects in the hope of, at some point in the future, selling a future variant in the same way as the Raspberry Pi is now.
Update: Unfortunately, the sheer volume of requests has already caused Imagination's website to collapse. The company has asked that hopeful users should be patient and hold off for a little while until everything's up and running again.
Update 2: Imagination asked us to pass along this note regarding the CI20 "When we initially announced that we were working on this development board, there were hundreds of you who visited us from Engadget and submitted many interesting projects for Creator CI20. I would like to thank everyone for their support; it really gave us the boost we needed to put the final touches on a product we are very proud of. This is only the beginning – we plan to create a series of exciting microcomputers based on the latest and greatest MIPS, PowerVR and Ensigma processors from Imagination and our partners."