AuthenTec Sells Off Embedded Security Systems, Leaving FingerPrint Technology for Apple

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NFCWorld reports that AuthenTec has sold off its Embedded Security Solutions (ESS) division to a company called Inside Secure for $48 million, leaving Apple with its fingerprint sensors and identity management assets.

Authentec's Embedded Security Solutions (ESS) division designs, develops and sells a range of embedded security solutions, centered on the use of encryption algorithms and security blocks to protect data and ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability.

TechCrunch suggests one of the reasons for the sell off of this non-core technology is to avoid any regulatory hurdles in the AuthenTec acquisition.

If the initial Reuters report of the acquisition remains accurate, it recoups investment on parts of the business which aren’t essential to Apple’s plans. It also ensures that once any deal is finalized, there will be less to worry about in terms of Apple gaining undue control over tech essential to the securing of its competitors products, which might raise red flags with regulators

Apple had been reported to have acquired AuthenTech back in July for $356 million. Speculation had already claimed that Apple was primarily interested in AuthenTec's fingerprint scanning technology for future devices. Several current customers of AuthenTec's fingerprint sensors were already been forced to quickly look for alternative suppliers.

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Top Rated Comments

Mac Fly (film) Avatar
151 months ago
Embedded Security Solutions (http://authentec.com/Products/EmbeddedSecurity.aspx) (ESS) division to a company called Inside Secure for $48 million...

Read that as "Insecure".
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
151 months ago
... the only end effect would be that nobody else can use it in consumer electronics until the license expires. We don't actually know.

The Apple license acquired perpetual exclusive consumer electronics rights to any technology created or acquired by Liquidmetal up to at least February 2014.

Evidence from people I know pointed to Apple working on multitouch research as far back as 2000, leading up to the Fingerworks acquisition.

Quite possible, considering multitouch dates back to the early 80s.

Most of the details, they obviously didn't want to tell me. If you were to tell me in 2006 that buying out Fingerworks was just to bury it, I'd be sad and probably nod in agreement because there's little other evidence. But in reality, their tech got rolled into a project that shipped after 6+ years of development.

People repeat this all the time, yet I can't think of one Fingerworks patent that got used in iOS. Or even close. As a Fingerworks founder noted when asked about this, their company was about opaque items, not transparent touchscreens.

But something else that bothers me is that while we've heard that other manufacturers have used Liquid Metal before, and we've heard people claim that Liquid Metal isn't being used by Apple except in some glorified paper clips, I can't seem to find any details.

One example is Samsung. They started using Liquid Metal for phone hinges back in 2002. They continued using LM for parts over the years, even creating the world's first LM luxury phone in 2008, citing its corrosion and scratch resistance. They continued to use it for trim.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KnightWRX Avatar
151 months ago
Liquid metal components have big potential for use in phones etc but have you ever considered their engineers may not have been able to get the production yields they need with liquid metal to include it in their products yet. Anything that goes into an Apple product has to scale to huge production quantities, which is probably why we haven't seen IGZO screens in iDevices yet. Great potential but volume production problems.
Then. Why. The. Exclusivity ?

*sigh*

Look, I'm not saying Apple shouldn't be looking into Liquid Metal, or trying it out, or getting a license to the some of the patents. It's the exclusivity bit that bugs me, especially in light of Apple not actually using it.

Sandisk had MP3 players built with the stuff in 2006. That it's not ready for Apple to use in the quantities they need for parts they need is not what I'm having an issue with. It's locking out other players that might have a use for which the product is ready that is the puzzling part. It's Apple trying to gain an advantage using its cash reserves, locking people out of technology.

Same as their stylus patents, touch screen Macs even though "they don't work" patents.

Apple needs to stop trying to compete by preventing others from competing, it needs to rely on its great products and marketing instead. There will always be users who don't want/need Apple products and trying to prevent them from having the choice to go elsewhere is just going to hurt their brand image in the end.

It all remains to be seen if this applies to this AuthenTec purchase, it's just sad that people that have these AuthenTec enable devices outside of Apple are now locked out of future updates because Apple is picking up the IP, especially in light that they don't really seem to have a use for it.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Iconoclysm Avatar
151 months ago
And sometimes, they just claim they will and never do. Like Facetime. And other times, it's because licensing of the copyrighted codebase they are using forces them to. Like Webkit.

But the fact remains, Liquid Metal's license seems to be a move to lock out the competition from using it. Same as when they use their massive supply chains to simply lock out the competition from getting parts like NAND or Displays.

Apple always does what benefits Apple. That shouldn't be a surprise, Apple isn't exactly out to make the world a better place, it's goal like any publicly traded company is simply profits.

Actually, Apple was not forced to leave Webkit open if you read up on the limited license it was protected under. Facetime is open because it's basically SIP, and it's already open right now.

Did you ever consider that Liquid Metal may not be up to Apple's level of quality yet? Or is it always instantly Apple being predatory? I'm sure Apple was simply locking out the competition rather than getting **** a lot cheaper too.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
151 months ago
If this is anything like the Liquid Metal exclusivity license Apple acquired, it could very much be not about integrating it in its own products, but about locking its competition out of it.

Sometimes Apple reminds me of those seagulls in "Finding Nemo". They don't like to share anything.

Wow. Am I the only person that does not want my biometrics to be scanned or stored anywhere ever? This seems like it is heading down a road I don't want to travel.

If it's just stored locally, it could be quite useful.

Fingerprint scanners have been used on handhelds since before 2000.

The first retina-screen smartphone (the 2007 Toshiba Portégé G900) had a fingerprint scanner which not only could be used to unlock the phone, but you could even set it up so that each finger launched a different application.

Scanners can also be used to confirm the user when making electronic payments, picking up tickets, etc.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DarkWinter Avatar
151 months ago
I can't make my mind up as to whether this'd make it into the next iPhone iteration or not. Else it'll be more of an iPhone 6 than a 5S, which I'm all for. Finger crossed.

Entering my passcode is getting tedious (first world problem).
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)