Apple 2.0

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Apple buys a company that makes fingerprint readers

July 27, 2012: 8:32 AM ET

Picks up Florida-based AuthenTec Inc. for $356 million

AuthenTec tech in action. Photo: AuthenTec

FORTUNE -- Unless it changes its stripes, Apple (AAPL) is never going to buy Twitter, Netflix, TiVo, Facebook or any of the other headline-grabbing acquisitions that have been floated in the press.

Apple buys companies like AuthenTec (AUTH), which according to an SEC 8-K filing Friday was picked up by Apple for $8 a share, a 58% premium over AuthenTec's Thursday close of $5.07.

The Melbourne, Florida-based company makes fingerprint sensors and identity management software for PCs, tablets, smartphones, printers, network servers and other such devices. Among its customers are Samsung, the leading maker of Android devices, and Motorola, now a Google (GOOG) subsidiary.

Some reports have interpreted this as a shot against the bow of Samsung just before the big patent infringement trial that starts Monday.

But given that AuthenTec's clients include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Fujitsu, HBO, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG, Nokia, Orange, Sky, Texas Instruments and, apparently, the U.S. Army, it looks more to me as if Apple is getting serious about security.

UPDATE: According to Brian Marshall, AuthenTec has shipped over 100 million fingerprint sensors. In a note to clients he writes: "We view the deal as consistent with AAPL's strategy to acquire technology assets it sees as important for product differentiation (e.g., C3 and Poly9 for mapping, Anobit for flash technology, Intrinsity and P.A. Semi for application processors, Siri for voice/language recognition, etc.)."

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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