AuthenTec tells clients to buy fingerprint sensors elsewhere in 2013

Earlier in the summer, smart sensor maker AuthenTec agreed to be bought by Apple for $356 million. Still pending approval, the transactions left even the seasoned watchers scratching their head.

People began wondering whether Cupertino might leverage AuthenTec’s fingerprint sensors to bolster enterprise security in iOS devices. Or, perhaps, Apple was keen on tapping AuthenTec’s sensors to add consumer features to iPhones, iPods and iPads, the stuff like finger-based unlock or a secure e-wallet service.

The deal remains shrouded in a veil of secrecy because Apple isn’t talking much and neither is AuthenTec. A report out this morning claims that AuthenTec’s current clients are “in a state of panic” as the company is telling them it will stop offering its technology and NFC/fingerprint sensors as of next year…

Now, AuthenTec’s list of clients includes the biggest names in tech, such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Fujitsu and – you guessed right – Apple’s fierce rival Samsung. Matter of fact, the Galaxy maker prior to the acquisition signed a deal with AuthenTec to improve VPN security of Galaxy devices.

According to ETNews (machine-translated, via MacRumoros):

AuthenTec’s current customers are said to be “in a state of panic” as they seek to secure alternative suppliers for the fingerprint recognition technology that has been seeing increasing adoption.

But with AuthenTec holding a significant amount of intellectual property rights in the field, those companies may have difficulty finding adequate alternatives.

I guess Samsung is shocked the most as the company was looking to bolster enterprise security of its Android smartphones and tablets.

Yes, Samsung and others will cut deals with other suppliers, but AuthenTec was the leading provider of smart sensors.

The iPhone 5 was widely believed to feature Near-Field Communication (NFC) circuitry.

Even Chronic believed bought the rumor.

Apple’s marketing boss Phil Schiller said Apple passed on NFC with this year’s iPhone because the technology is not mature or secure enough:

In an interview, Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said that Passbook alone does what most customers want and works without existing merchant payment systems.

It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.

Apple almost certainly has some interesting plans with NFC technology.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t have spent $356 millions (peanuts for them) to buy engineering talent hailed for their NFC and smart sensor expertise.