8 interesting Apple acquisitions from the last decade

14 May 20201.63k Views

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The Apple Park campus in Cupterino, California. Image: © Newport Coast Media/Stock.adobe.com

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We look back on eight interesting acquisitions that Apple has completed over the last decade, from Siri to semiconductors.

Over the years, Apple has made countless acquisitions. Some of these have been quite high profile, such as its purchase of Shazam for $400m in 2018, the company’s acquisition of Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1bn last year, and the $3bn Beats deal back in 2014.

Apple boss Tim Cook previously admitted that the tech giant buys a company every two to three weeks on average, so acquisitions aren’t always announced. Cook explained that the company is “primarily looking for talent and intellectual property” in most of its deals.

Here, we take a look at some of Apple’s other interesting acquisitions from the last decade.

Siri

One of Apple’s first major acquisitions of the last decade was Siri, which was purchased for an estimated $200m from the SRI International research lab in 2010.

The voice assistant technology was developed over two decades in California by Adam Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, Tom Gruber and their team, who built 50 versions of Siri before they realised the potential for the technology when Apple released the first iPhone in 2007.

The team launched the commercial version of Siri on the app store in February 2010. Two to three weeks later, Steve Jobs got in touch, ready to make an offer for the technology. Cheyer, Kittlaus and Gruber began working at Apple, creating the version of Siri that iPhone users are now familiar with.

Kittlaus and Cheyer later left Apple and went on to found Viv Labs, an artificial intelligence assistant company that was acquired by Samsung in 2016 for an estimated $215m. Gruber left Apple in 2018.

Imsense

Later in 2010, Apple acquired Imsense, which was a UK-based high-dynamic-range (HDR) photography start-up. HDR photography was introduced on the iPhone 4 as a feature that enabled users to produce higher-quality photos under certain conditions.

Imsense was founded in 2007 by Prof Graham Finlayson, with the goal of providing dynamic range optimisation solutions for mobile images and videos. It was around the time of this acquisition that Apple began to position the iPhone’s camera as one of the features that set it apart from competing devices.

While details of the Imsense deal were not revealed, Braveheart Investment Group, which backed the start-up, said that it received £342,000 from its minority stake in the business, more than doubling its original investment of £150,000 within two years.

In the years since Imsense was purchased, Apple has acquired a number of other photography tech businesses as it continues to develop iPhone cameras amid rising competition.

Anobit Technologies

Apple acquired Israeli semiconductor start-up Anobit Technologies in 2012 for between $400m and $500m. At the time, the start-up’s flash memory controllers were a key component of a number of Apple’s leading products, such as the iPad, iPhone and MacBook Air.

By acquiring the company, Apple also added roughly 160 engineers to its existing team of around 1,000 chip engineers – meaning the Anobit team made up more than 10pc of the total chip engineers at Apple.

Anobit Technologies was founded in 2006 by Prof Ehud Weinstein, Ariel Maislos and Dr Ofir Shalvi. The start-up’s proprietary memory signal processing (MSP) technology could be used to improve the speed, endurance and performance of flash storage systems, while reducing the cost.

AuthenTec

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In 2012, Apple also acquired Florida-based fingerprint sensor company AuthenTec for $356m, marking another large acquisition for the business. The deal included provisions for AuthenTec’s patents, control of its fingerprint sensors, touch chips and security technologies.

Before it was snapped up, AuthenTec counted Cisco, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, HP and Lenovo among its customers. The purchase likely helped Apple to roll out biometric unlocking and payments using fingerprint sensors.

One of the factors that is reported to have attracted AuthenTec to the deal was that it had been designing for “dozens of different smartphone platforms”, while Apple’s “unique narrow product platform” allowed for unity of design in component parts across large volumes.

PrimeSense

Apple purchased Israeli 3D sensing business PrimeSense in 2013 for $350m. Prior to the acquisition, PrimeSense’s technology was used to power Microsoft’s Kinect, but has now been implemented by Apple in its facial recognition technology.

PrimeSense was founded in 2005 by Aviad Maizels, Alexander Shpunt, Ophir Sharon, Dima Rais and Tamir Berliner. Its technology allowed a computer to perceive the world in 3D and derive an understanding of the world based on sight, to replicate the way that humans see their surroundings.

When the start-up was acquired, it was anticipated that it would help in the development of Apple TV, with Forbes speculating that the technology could be used to give Apple a “stronger living room presence”.

Dialog

In 2018, Apple paid $600m to license intellectual property, assets and talent from English semiconductor manufacturer Dialog. Apple had accounted for 74pc of Dialog’s sales in 2016, and the chipmaker had been the exclusive supplier of power management integrated circuits (PMICs) for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

While Apple didn’t acquire the entire business, it acquired 300 Dialog employees (mostly engineers) and took over some buildings that had been owned by Dialog.

When the deal was announced, TechCrunch speculated that Apple may have made the purchase to improve the efficiency of wireless high-performing hardware, such as AirPods and the Apple Watch, as well as the company’s anticipated VR headset.

Dark Sky

At the beginning of April 2020, Apple announced that it was acquiring popular mobile weather app Dark Sky. The app is known for its ‘down-to-the-minute’ weather forecasts and notifications that remind users to bring an umbrella with them if they are going outside.

It is estimated that 70pc of the app’s users are on Android, however, and Apple has decided to lock these users out of the app from 1 July 2020. Industry commentators have suggested that Dark Sky’s hyperlocal weather forecasting could be introduced to Apple devices in the upcoming iOS 14 update.

Voysis

One of Apple’s most recent acquisitions was the purchase of Dublin AI start-up Voysis last month. Voysis was founded by Noel Ruane and Peter Cahill in 2012, with the aim of helping businesses to set up deep-domain, brand-specific intelligent voice systems that can provide users with rich, natural language interactions.

Bloomberg, which first reported on the acquisition, suggested that Apple will use the “acquired know-how to improve Siri’s understanding of natural language or to offer the Voysis platform to thousands of developers that already integrate with Apple’s digital assistant”.

The technology developed by Voysis can help improve digital assistants in online shopping apps. Users could say things like, “I need a new LED TV” and “My budget is $1,000”, narrowing down search results and interacting with voice assistants more naturally.

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Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com