Apple has acquired Passif Semiconductor, a low-power wireless chip specialist with a product range that includes Bluetooth LE support for wearables like smartwatches. The deal, confirmed by Jessica Lessin and AllThingsD, has been confirmed by Apple, but no financial details – nor examples of what the Cupertino company intends to do with the wireless expertise – have been revealed.
Passif Semiconductor was a Silicon Valley start-up founded by two former University of California, Berkley students. The company’s goal was to reduce the power consumption of wireless chips, a topical subject given the increasing number of radios modern smartphones and other devices are expected to pack in.
According to Lessin’s sources, the deal – made earlier this year – was not the first time Apple showed interest in Passif. In fact, the company is believed to have attempted to buy the start-up several years ago, at the time offering “mid-tens-of-millions of dollars” but rebuffed.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans” a company spokesperson told AllThingsD.
Although Apple is standoffish about the reasons behind its purchase, it’s not hard to see where low-power wireless could come into its current range – or, indeed, its rumored devices. The iPhone and iPad each incorporate multiple radios, for cellular and short-range connectivity, while Apple’s MacBook line has been shrinking with each generation.
However, it’s the tipped “iWatch” smartwatch project and Apple’s interest in wearables which arguably makes the most sense for Passif’s technology. One of the long-standing concerns around smartwatches has been their limited power supply, so if Apple could address that using new, lower-powered chips then it could gain an edge over rivals like Pebble.