August 17, 2012, 10:28 AM — New SEC filings suggest Apple pushed hard to quickly close either a licensing or acquisition deal with embedded security vendor AuthenTec, leading a range of bloggers and pundits to conclude that Apple plans to introduce AuthenTec's fingerprint sensor in the upcoming iPhone 5, and possibly a full digital "wallet" capability.
But how quickly these elements are introduced depends on Apple's long-range plans for iPhone, and iPad, as well as the maturing of the mobile payments industry infrastructure, a big jump in consumer acceptance and -- most of all -- trust in the new technology, and how quickly Apple can phase these particular technologies into its supply chain and manufacturing processes.
SCUTTLEBUTT: iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending Aug. 10
The fingerprint sensor, many speculate, will be a key part of a full-fledged mobile "digital wallet" using a near-field communication (NFC) radio link to trigger purchases by simply waving the handset over an NFC reader. AuthenTec, an established vendor of a range of smart sensors, identity management (including PC/laptop fingerprint sensors), and embedded security products, announced the deal on July 27. At $365 million, it's Apple's biggest buy.
(There are actually three parts to the deal: the acquisition itself, which will make AuthenTec an Apple subsidiary; a separate $20 million intellectual property and technology deal, which gives Apple the right to acquire non-exclusive licenses and certain other rights on hardware technology, software technology and AuthenTec's patents; and a 270-day option on whether to license hardware, patents or software on a perpetual non-exclusive basis, for another $115 million.)