[DISCLOSURE: I AM EMPLOYED IN THE BIOMETRIC INDUSTRY.]
Companies acquire other companies for a number of reasons - to acquire the people (FriendFeed's acquisition by Facebook), to apply technology in new ways (Google's acquisition of Neven Vision), and sometimes to keep the competitors at bay.
I left Motorola before it split into two companies, and before one of those two companies (the phone portion) was acquired by Google. Dennis Woodside headed Motorola Mobility during the Google years, and he recently revealed that Apple's acquisition of Authentec put a damper on Google's plans for one of the Motorola phones.
Indeed, the 6-inch Nexus 6, [Woodside] can now admit, was stymied by just one of those big players. A dimple on the back that helps users hold the device should, in fact, have been rather more sophisticated. “The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet,” says Woodside.
When Motorola Mobility was itself sold by Google, Woodside went to Dropbox. As it turns out, Dropbox was also a target of Apple's acquisition team at one point - but this time Apple didn't get the company.
Dropbox was once dismissed by Steve Jobs as “a feature, not a product”, albeit after the company had rejected what has since been reported as a nine-digit takeover bid.
Presumably Apple didn't believe that Authentec's products were commodities - after all, they were successful in THAT acquisition.
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