Following reports earlier this week that ever-secretive Apple was in talks to buy Israeli flash technology firm Anobit, Reuters is reporting that Apple has concluded the deal for a total of $500 million. But that’s not all: Reuters also has Apple planning to open a new research and development facility in Israel—the first time the company would have taken its development work outside the United States.
At $500 million, the acquisition of Anobit would count as Apple’s most-expensive takeover since it acquired NeXT—and along with it, Steve Jobs—15 years ago for $429 million and 1.5 million shares of Apple stock. However, Apple’s fortunes have shifted substantially since its “death spiral” days of the mid 1990s: the reported purchase price for Anobit is roughly one half of one percent of Apple’s current cash assets.
Apple’s interest in Anobit has everything to do with flash memory. Apple’s iPhone, iPod, iPad, and (increasingly) Mac computers rely on flash memory rather than traditional disk-based storage, for all the usual reasons: no moving parts, lower power consumption, and higher performance. However, rather than manufacturing heaps of flash memory, Anobit has been focussing on improving the design of flash memory to improve performance and reliability, as well as bringing down power needs and manufacturing costs. In fact, Apple is already using Anobit-designed flash in many of its flash-based products.
By acquiring Anobit—much in the same way Apple acquired PA Semi back in 2008—Apple gets an exclusive lock on Anobit’s flash memory innovation—meaning Apple will get the call on whether or not Anobit’s technology is available to competing smartphone and portable device makers. We’re guessing not.
Apple’s decision to open an R&D center in Israel is also interesting, making Apple one of a group of large global technology companies like Qualcomm and Intel that have set up facilities near Israel’s Institute of Technology.
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