Intel (INTC) wants to play as nice as possible as it can with Apple (AAPL) due to the fact that Mac has been one of the only PCs able to buck the trend of poor PC sales over the last couple of years. Additionally, Intel found strength in recent comments that alluded to the company continuing to have a great relationship with Apple. As Mac market share increases, Apple becomes more and more important for Intel to continue success.
So, where is there an area where Intel can borrow some of Apple's coming mojo? Possibly in biometrics and smartwatches.
By borrowing their mojo, I mean that the Apple products will come with their own hype - and Intel will benefit by being the "brains" behind what makes the product work.
Biometrics are likely going to be one of the branches of the personal consumer electronics "ecosystem" that we start to see more often. Yes, companies like Nike (NKE) have already ventured into that realm with the FuelBand, but now companies like Apple and Google (GOOG) are likely to get involved, as well. The iWatch would make a perfect outlet for Apple to enter into this field and the electronics giant has already telegraphed such a move by including all of the fitness options and integration that they do with their iPod series.
And someone is going to have to provide the processors behind these wearable little nuggets of future brilliance, right?
Additionally, the implementing of the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone is another allusion of Apple moving into the biometrics space. So, it's not just for tracking health, it's for also potential use in device identification and authentication.
ValueWalk.com just reported on new patents by Apple specifically for this use yesterday. You can read the full article, which this excerpt is from, here:
One Apple Inc. (AAPL) patent application has been released and it describes a system that wirelessly pairs up mobile devices with fingerprint scanners, voice signatures, and retina scans. The iPhone 5S already features a fingerprint scanner which is designed to protect users in the case of a phone theft. This means Apple Inc. (AAPL) is already using biometrics in some of their devices. Although the fingerprint scanner offers some security, it still has a few flaws. There have been reports that the sensor is sensitive to sweat. There has also been hackers who reportedly have been able to work around the system.
But this news really isn't about Apple - it's about Intel, and the direction they're moving in, as well as what they're trying to accomplish from their recent purchase of Basis Science.
Last month it was reported:
- Intel (+0.9%) has reportedly acquired Basis, a maker of health tracker wristwatches that monitor a user's activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns. One source tells TechCrunch the purchase price is around $100M, while another says it's near $150.
- Basis is estimated to have a 7% share of the health tracker market, putting it behind leaders FitBit, Jawbone, and Nike. Competition is intensifying: Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) launched a fitness band last week that complements its smartphones, and Apple has reportedly been hiring health/fitness experts to assist with iWatch development.
- Intel aims to be a major CPU supplier for the embedded/wearable device market: The company is set to begin shipping its low-power Quark CPU to embedded OEMs, and is also working on related software tools. Competition is provided by Qualcomm (QCOM) and other makers of ARM-based CPUs.
- Basis could help Intel provide reference designs to wearable device OEMs, much as the company has historically done for PC OEMs.
What does this tell us from Intel?
As an Intel shareholder, I like the news - it shows me that Intel knows they missed the boat with tablet and mobile and, while they're playing catch-up, they're not going to get caught on the ass end of the adoption curve for the popular product that's coming down the pipe. That product is definitely going to be the smartwatch. You may not think so now, with just the Samsung watch out, but wait until Apple shows them how to do it the right way. They're going to be everywhere. You heard it here first.
Apple Insider reported on this purchase a bit more:
In February, Basis Science was rumored to be shopping itself around to large tech firms like Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft. On Monday, it was reported that Intel acquired the firm for somewhere between $100 and $150 million.
As the chip maker is thought to be more interested in sensor platform solutions than marketing a branded smartwatch, some speculate Basis and its technology will be rolled in with Intel's smart devices team, putting the Health Tracker Watch out to pasture.
We first saw a pre-release version of the Basis Health Tracker Watch at CES almost three years ago. While the internal sensor suite was impressive, especially for 2011, we feared the final product would carry over the prototype's plastic shell and cheap veneer in a bid to keep costs down. Luckily, Basis had other plans in mind and put out a high-quality device with the fit and finish one would expect from a $200 smartwatch.
There are two categories of smartwatch: the health and wellness device that operates with or augments an activity-tracking app, and the device that acts as a secondary display and controller for your phone. Basis is firmly situated in the health and fitness camp.
With Apple's help Intel could possibly combine those two types of smartwatch. Intel's new Quark CPU is going to be the company's chance to shove it in the face of those who got on them for missing the boat with mobile and tablet - a mistake that has cost the company dearly, and cost shareholders an increased dividend.
For Intel, who has plenty of cash to do their business with and a strong balance sheet, this is a great move that puts a nice nod on future innovation for the company while - at the same time - taking a potential competitor out of the water. As an Intel shareholder, I'm pleased with this news and know that Intel can steal some of Apple's mojo when their watch finally does come out.