Apple To Make Flash Move With Anobit Buy?

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Hard to swallow but Apple could be about to acquire flash memory hardware maker Anobit

Apple could be about to make a significant deal to bolster its iPad and iPhone portfolio against a growing number of rivals, after reports suggested it is in talks to purchase an Israeli flash memory startup.

According to a report published on Tuesday by the Calcalist financial daily, Apple is in talks to buy flash storage specialist Anobit for anything between $400 million (£257m) and $500 million (£321m).

Significant Move

The deal could be significant because Anobit has developed a chip that enhances flash drive performance through signal processing. Apple already uses this chip in its iPhone, iPad and the MacBook Air and it reportedly allows Apple to cut down on bulk while, at the same time, increasing the performance of its products.

According to the Calcalist report, Apple is interested in Anobit’s technology to increase and enhance the memory volume and performance of its smartphones and tablets. The chip is reportedly capable of doubling the memory volume in the new iPads and MacBooks.

The reported acquisition talks around Anobit comes amid signs the company itself is seeking additional financing.

Anobit is a fabless semiconductor company that specialises in flash storage. This includes enterprise and server grade solid-state drives (SSDs) and memory controllers. Intel is known to already be an investor in the company since Anobit raised $76 million (£49m) from Battery Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital and Intel Capital after it was established back in 2006.

Cash Rich

Some pundits have pointed out that Apple does not usually acquire hardware companies and, instead, mostly acquires software-based companies.

If the reports are true, the $500 million price tag for Anobit would make it Apple’s biggest acquisition since it acquired Steve Job’s creation NeXT for $400 million (£257m) back in 1997. However Apple is in the enviable position of having at least $81 billion (£52bn) of cash sitting in the bank, thanks to its sales successes over the past decade.

The deal, if it proves true, could also be hugely important in the fiercely competitive tablet and smartphone market. It is worth pointing out that among Anobit’s key clients are Samsung and Hynix.

Long Term Move?

A noted analyst believes the move would be a smart long-term development for Apple. Mike Abramsky of RBC Capital Markets was quoted by the Financial Post as telling clients that the deal “may provide meaningful long-term competitive advantages”.

“Apple would be particularly interested in Anobit’s innovative embedded flash controllers for smartphones and tablets,” Abramsky said in the note, adding Anotbit’s technology reduces the cost of flash-memory.

“Apple likely sees flash memory performance and speed as crucial to user experience in the post-PC era.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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