INSIDE Secure buys Apple’s left-overs

AuthenTec comprised four divisions: Embedded Security Systems (ESS), TouchChip (fingerprints), Smart Sensor, and Identity Management. The last two have been discontinued (the AuthenTec site simply says these “products are no longer available.”) The first is now being sold to INSIDE Secure.

The INSIDE Secure deal is valued at up to $48 million paid in cash. It tells us two things: the French firm wishes to expand its offerings in the fast growing mobile market; while the Cupertino company is only interested in AuthenTec’s fingerprint technology – and possibly its NFC capabilities contained within the same AuthenTec division. 

INSIDE Secure gives four primary reasons for the acquisition: ‘complementary offerings for a complete security architecture’ with additional VPN and DRM offerings; ’79 highly qualified employees located in Europe, Asia and in the US;’ access to a wider customer base; and ‘additional sales in high growth markets.’ “It will enable us to complement our product and solution portfolio in Mobile NFC and Digital Security and enhance our customer offerings in fast-growing markets,” explained Rémy de Tonnac, chief executive officer of INSIDE Secure.

Most interest, however, will focus on what is left of AuthenTec rather than what has been divested. Apple has always claimed a disinterest in NFC (although that could change in the future); which just leaves AuthenTec’s fingerprint technology. Fingerprints and voice are the two obvious biometric technologies most suitable for mobile phones; but fingerprint-based authentication is suitable for almost all hardware products.

By owning its own fingerprint technology, Apple can add an important user authentication layer to its hardware without threatening its mobile walled garden philosophy – no third party will need access to its inner system workings. It would seem on this basis that it is almost certain that future versions of Apple products – especially the more vulnerable mobile devices – will include an integral Apple fingerprint authentication capability.

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