As Apple nears its 100th M&A transaction since its acquisition of NeXT Computer in 1996, we visualize the Cupertino-based giant's top acquisitions.
FaceID, the new technology that allows users to unlock a phone just by looking at it, is arguably the most important new feature Apple unveiled with its new iPhone X model.
Historically, Apple has used M&A as a tool to enrich its dominant product of the day, with its focus over time shifting from its computer to its smartphone. Over the years, the company has spent vast sums to outright buy startups’ technology and weave it into the Apple ecosystem.
But where has Apple written its largest checks? Using CB Insights M&A data, we made a visual timeline of the largest acquisitions in the company’s history.
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APPLE’S TOP ACQUISITIONS
Apple’s acquisition history reflects its shifting focus from the Mac to the iPhone and now AI. These are Apple’s 12 largest acquisitions since 1996:
- Beats Electronics ($3B, 2014) is Apple’s largest acquisition to date. This transaction saw Apple acquire both Beats Music, the subscription streaming music service, and Beats Electronics, which makes headphones, speakers, and audio software. It has been reported that this acquisition aimed to boost Apple’s music services by bringing in Beats Electronics executives.
- Anobit Technologies ($500M, 2011), an Israel-based semiconductor startup, was acquired by Apple for its flash memory components, a key part of many of Apple’s products, as well as for its large team of chip engineers.
- NeXT Computer ($400M, 1996), a software development company, is the earliest of Apple’s top acquisitions and was used to bring Steve Jobs back into the company he co-founded.
- PrimeSense ($360M, 2013) is an Israeli 3D sensing company that was used to power Microsoft’s Kinect. It is now also behind Apple’s facial recognition technology included in the iPhone X.
- AuthenTec ($356M, 2012), a Florida-based listed fingerprint sensors company, was used by Apple to develop its payment solution Apple Pay.
- PA Semi ($278M, 2008) was Apple’s first acquisition of a semiconductor company. Reportedly, one of the reasons for acquiring the California-based chip designer was Apple’s interest in low-power processors, especially for mobile devices.
- Quattro Wireless ($275M, 2010) is a mobile ad network operator that was acquired by Apple after the tech giant was outbid by rival Google for an AdMob acquisition, right before the launch of the iPad. Mobile advertising is one way for Apple to further monetize its mobile platform.
- C3 Technologies ($273M, 2011) was acquired by Apple to boost its mapping feature. The Swedish startup was Apple’s third acquisition in the mapping space, following Placebase in 2009 and Poly9 in 2010.
- Siri ($250M, 2010) is a virtual personal assistant that was acquired by Apple to integrate its voice search feature into the iPhone. It is a rare example of an Apple acquisition that kept its name as it was integrated into the company’s product.
- Lattice Data ($200M, 2017), a California-based artificial intelligence company backed by Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel, among others, is Apple’s most recent AI acquisition to make it to the top acquisitions list.
- Topsy Labs ($200M, 2013) was a real-time search engine for Twitter and was shut down by Apple in 2015, two years after it acquired the startup. Apple reportedly acquired Topsy Labs for its search architecture.
- Turi ($200M, 2016) is a Seattle-based platform for building predictive and intelligent applications. It was acquired by Apple as the tech giant built up its artificial intelligence capabilities.
Apple spent over $6B on its top 12 deals, pictured above, and its $3B acquisition of Beats Electronics in 2014 was far and away its largest deal.
Similar to its NeXT Computer acquisition in 1996, Apple’s bet on Beats was at least partially reported as an acqui-hire, aimed at providing the tech giant with the right people to build its music business.
Excluding the $3B Beats deal, Apple’s other top acquisitions all clocked in at $500M or less. Compare that to Google, whose top 10 acquisitions all cost more than $600M.
Recently, AI has been a key focus.
In the last two years, the only deals topping the top 10 list were to Turi and Lattice Data, both of which operate in horizontal AI.
Overall, these top deals reflect Apple’s strategy evolution, from a focus on the Mac platform (NeXT Computer) in the late 1990s to mobile (PA Semi, Anobit Technologies) and AI (Turi, Lattice Data) more recently.
Notably, most of Apple’s top acquisitions have been aimed at building and improving its largest success to date, the iPhone, starting with chip performance for which Apple acquired PA Semi and Anobit Technologies.