Apple acquires Passif Semiconductor, perhaps to help with iWatch initiative

In a report first published by Jessica Klein, and since confirmed by Apple, Apple in recent months acquired a wireless chip development company with known expertise in low-power communications.

In a report first published by Jessica Klein, and since confirmed by Apple, Apple in recent months acquired a wireless chip development company with known expertise in low-power communications. 

The company in recent months purchased Silicon Valley-based wireless chip developer, Passif Semiconductor, according to people briefed on the deal. Passif develops communication chips that use very little power. Its technology, which includes a radio that works with a low-energy version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth LE, is promising for health-monitoring and fitness devices that need extra-long battery life.

Interestingly enough, the report notes that Apple had been interested in acquiring Passif for some time, even making a bid in the tens of millions of dollars for the company a few years ago. As Klein relays, it stands to reason that the settled upon acquisition price is much higher.

So why is Apple interested in low-power communications?

Well, with all of the rumors circling around Apple's plans to potentially release an iWatch in 2014, things start to make a lot of sense. Recall that The Verge back in March reported that Apple was struggling to get enough battery life out of iWatch prototypes running on iOS.

The goal is to last at least 4-5 days between charges, but the current watch prototypes are apparently only going for a couple days max. We're also told Apple has some work to do with iOS on the iPhone, which currently has several hooks for supporting a watch-like device but lacks the appropriate interface or settings to make it work properly.

Apple in recent months has trademarked the 'iWatch' name in a number of countries and reportedly has upwards of 100 employees from varying internal departments working on the project. What's more, Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted that wearable technology is an area of immense interest.

Lastly, also keep in mind a recent report from The Financial Times which relayed that Apple, in an effort to speed along development, was aggressively hiring new employees for the project.

The company has begun hiring “aggressively” for the project in recent weeks, say people familiar with Apple’s plans for the wearable device, a move that shows it has stepped up development but which raises questions over the ability of its own engineers to develop wearable technology.

As Apple moves from iPods, iPhones and iPads into an entirely new category of product, it is looking beyond its existing staff in Cupertino for the talent required to build it – an indication that the endeavour involves “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve,” according to one source.

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