Refreshed internals, lower price point possible.
Apple to Buy Mobile Security Company AuthenTec for $356 Million
AuthenTec Inc (AUTH.O), which makes fingerprint sensor chips used in personal computers, said it agreed to be bought by Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for about $356 million.Reuters describes AuthenTec as a maker of fingerprint sensor chips. AuthenTec recently had announced a partnership with Samsung as their VPN Security provider.
From their fact sheet, AuthenTec describes its technology:
AuthenTec's award-winning smart fingerprint sensors provide multiple touch-powered features that extend beyond user authentication to include convenience, personalization and touch control. The Company's TouchChip area fingerprint sensors and modules comply with government and industry standards and offer the ruggedness, strong security and ease of integration needed for quick and broad deployment. TouchChip sensors dramatically lower the size, cost and power of fingerprint sensors versus optical-based fingerprint solutions.AuthenTec's "swipe sensors" is described to use sub-surface technology to read the live layer of skin beneath the skin's surface.
Notably, one sensor is marketed for use specifically for authentication for mobile wallets. Apple has been rumored to be looking into mobile payments. Their Passbook technology in iOS 6 is a first step, but Apple has yet to deploy a more full scale system. Fingerprint authentication could fit into a larger payment strategy.
SeekingAlpha had recently speculated that AuthenTech may supply security chips for the next generation iPhone.
Apple is not going to the trouble of adding a biometric sensor just so that you don't have to use a four digit password. They are adding a biometric sensor so that the iPhone can become a safe and secure payment device.