Apple continues stealthy buying streak with micro LED startup LuxVue

The iPhone maker just nabbed the 5-year-old company in another example of its discrete acquisition push.

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CNET

Apple has discretely bought 24 companies in the last 18 months, CEO Tim Cook revealed in a conference call last week following the company's second-quarter earnings report, and has done a good job of keeping those deals from escaping the confines of Cupertino.

Except one name may have slipped loose Friday.

LuxVue Technology, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup that makes low-power, micro LED-based displays for use in consumer electronics, was recently acquired by Apple for an undisclosed sum, according to a report from TechCrunch.

Apple confirmed the acquisition on Friday. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," a company spokesperson said in a statement given to CNET.

It's unclear at this time if LuxVue is one of the 24 companies Cook mentioned last week -- meaning the deal was struck at some point in the last couple of months -- or if the purchase is part of a new string of acquisitions that the CEO says will not be slowing down anytime soon. "[W]e're on the prowl, I suppose you could say," Cook said.

Either way, Apple's frequent plucking of tech startups has remained steady and mostly secret while other other large technology corporations have been forced to make big splashes with more high-profile purchases. For example, Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of smart device maker Nest and Facebook's two eye-popping acquisitions -- virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for $2 billion and messaging platform WhatsApp for $19 billion -- have garnered substantial media attention thanks to the price tags and strategic power plays involved.

Cook stresses that the goal with Apple acquisitions is not to make flashy entrances into new markets by buying existing front-runners. Rather, it's about folding in talent and technology potentially valuable to Apple's core products and its experimental R&D in areas like wearables and next-generation mobile displays, for instance.

"What's important to us is that strategically it makes sense and that it winds up adding value to our shareholders over the long haul," Cook explained. "We are not in a race to spend the most or acquire the most. We're in a race to make the world's best products, that really enrich people's lives. And so to the tune that acquisitions can help us do that and they've done that and continue to do that, then we will acquire. And so you can bet that you will continue to see acquisitions and some of which we'll try to keep quiet and some of which seems to be impossible to keep quiet."

With LuxVue, Apple gains a well-funded maker of display technology that could benefit advancements in battery life or possibly screens for new Apple device categories like the rumored "iWatch" wearable. The startup, founded in 2009, had accumulated $43.8 million in venture capital funding primarily from ID Ventures America and Kleiner Perkins.

Beyond that, information about LuxVue is scarce, though the company holds numerous micro LED patents and its tech has been described by Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr as "a technical breakthrough in displays."

 

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