Apple's acquisitions reveal an interest in AR-related tech that was made explicit in the latest WWDC conference.
Yesterday, Apple kicked off its WWDC developers’ conference with an announcement of a suite of tools for developers which will allow them to create augmented reality apps for the iPhone. Apple executives boasted this will effectively make the company the largest AR platform in the world.
A look at Apple’s acquisition timeline shows how several M&A targets helped set up the company to be a player in AR. There is also a distinct uptick in the number of acquisitions that have happened in the last few years, compared to pre-2014. Most recently, Apple has been particularly active in making AI acquisitions, spanning speech recognition, computer vision, and facial recognition.
Computer vision capacity is also key to building AR apps. In addition, the company has also made acquisitions in the dedicated AR/VR space, including the purchases of FlyBy Media and metaio.
Below is a snapshot of the activity from our platform. CB Insights clients can see the line by line details for Apple’s M&A with this deal search.
Since 2010, most of Apple’s acquisitions have been of Series A companies, including FoundationDB, Cue, and Catch.com. Apple’s largest acquisition was Beats for $3B in 2014, but the company has made a total of 11 acquisitions with disclosed valuations above $100M since 2010. Others include Anobit Technologies and PrimeSense. Madrona Venture Group has had the most portfolio companies acquired by Apple, including Lattice Data, Turi, and Union Bay Networks.
Thematically, Apple has invested in several areas including:
- AI: Recently, Apple has been on an acquisition spree for artificial intelligence companies. After acquiring Siri in 2010, the company has made several speech acquisitions in recent years including VocalIQ and Novauris Technologies.
- AR/VR: Others AI acquisitions indicate AR/VR applications like Emotient, RealFace, and Faceshift, which could have uses in facial recognition and machine vision. Other AR acquisitions include the purchases of FlyBy Media and metaio.
- Healthcare: Some acquisitions suggest that Apple could be getting into healthcare (Gliimpse, Beddit) and education (Sproutling) too. They also have patents in these areas that suggest they might be looking more seriously, though at the moment they have been moving in cautiously.
- Chips & Semiconductors – Outside of Beats, Apple’s largest acquisitions were of semiconductor companies (Anobit Technologies, PrimeSense, AuthenTec). With the company reportedly on track to make their own AI chips, we could see more acquisitions in this area.
- App Store + Developer Tools – The company has made several acquisitions to improve search and discovery in the App Store (Chomp and Ottocat) and tools to help developers with ad management (Burstly).
- Photos – With photos becoming a more important part of the phone offering, the company made several acquisitions to help with photo management/sharing (Color, Polar Rose), camera applications (SnappyLabs), and camera quality itself (Linx Computational Imaging).
- Music – Music has been one of the most important levers of Apple’s success since the launch of iPod and iTunes in 2001 and 2003, respectively. While the largest acquisition has been Beats Music (helping Apple develop their music streaming offering), the company has also made acquisitions in music analytics (Semetric) as well as tools for more professional music production and the Logic Pro suite (Camel Audio, Redmatica).
- Mapping – After severing ties with Google for their mapping technology in 2012, Apple decided to make their own. This began a spree of mapping acquisitions in a short period of time in 2013, including Hopstop, Embark, Locationary, and WiFiSLAM among others. This kind of mapping data could prove useful to Apple if they continue to make inroads into the autonomous car space. The company has also recently acquired a company in the indoor mapping space, Indoor.io, which could have implications for mapping areas for augmented/virtual reality.
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