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Are Apple and Google developing 3D printing products?

Let's entertain a new rumor that Apple and Google are set to duke it out in the 3D printing market.

One analyst thinks Google is developing an all-in-one 3D printer, and only became interested in the technology out of concern that Apple might beat it to the 3D printing market.

Trip Chowdhry, managing director of equity research and Global Equities Research, said in a recent interview with Benzinga.com that Google was inspired to enter the 3D printing market by "either Apple or Microsoft," although “Apple is probably the focus for Google because Google considers Apple to be a strong competitor, not Microsoft."

"Apple does have intellectual property [in that space]," Chowdhry said in the interview. "And they often have more expertise in hardware development than, say, Microsoft has."

Apple acquired PrimeSense, a 3D sensing company, for $350 million in November, and its technology could be used to develop 3D scanning technology for a 3D printer.

The rumor follows Autodesk’s announcement that it will enter the 3D printing industry with an open-source platform called Spark, as well as its own 3D printing hardware.

However interesting it might be for Apple and Google to enter the industry, not to mention devastating for the companies already in it, the rumors do not necessarily mean the companies are going to come out with 3D printing products anytime soon. These companies make vast investments in research, and are likely investigating the technology for potential business. That doesn’t necessarily mean Apple and Google are going to release 3D printers.

Apple got into the mobile space, for example, because its software and success with the iPod gave it an advantage over what passed for a smartphone at the time. Google entered the race after it realized how a mobile OS could help it capitalize on the mobile search advertising fields. I don’t see how releasing a full-fledged 3D printer fits into the strategy of either company. But that doesn’t mean Apple, Google, or even Microsoft will ignore the technology completely. When you have basically unlimited money, everything is worth looking into. 

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