Apple reportedly buys low-power wireless chip developer Passif Semiconductor

iPad mini keynote (Phil Schiller, A6x slide 001)

Apple has reportedly bought what’s being described  a key technology in the arms race. The former Wall Street Journal reported Jessica Lessin, who is now gearing up to start a brand new news outlet, exclusively reported Thursday that the iPhone maker in recent months purchased Silicon Valley-based wireless chip developer Passif Semiconductor…

According to the story, it wasn’t immediately clear exactly how much Apple paid for Passif, but people briefed on the deal said it “tried to buy Passif a few years earlier for a price in the mid-tens-of-millions of dollars”.

That was a few years ago, so Apple must have paid a higher sum now. An Apple spokesperson treated Lessing to its standard boilerplate text saying “Apple buys small technology companies from time to time.” 

AllThingsD has confirmed the deal.

The acquisition of the fabless chip maker signals Apple’s intent to further differentiate its devices on the hardware front. Since 2010’s release of the original iPad, Apple has been notably designing the engine that powers iOS devices in-house.

iWatch concept (Maps, Martin Hajek 003)

In the past, Apple bought semiconductor experts PA Semi and Intrinsity.

Most recently, Apple acquired smart sensor maker AuthenTec, indoor Wi-Fi company Wifislam and mapping data providers Locationary and Hopstop.

Passif, whose website is non-existent, is a privately held company and specializes in developing communication chips that use very little power, including low-power Bluetooth LE chips for health-monitoring and fitness devices. The startup was founded a few years ago by Ben Cook and Axel Berny, PhD students at the University of California, Berkeley.

Knowing Apple’s rumored iWatch is expected to have a strong focus on fitness applications by ostensibly integrating sensors for monitoring health-related data, such as heart rates, the Passif deal makes lots of sense.

“One of the reasons Apple and its rivals haven’t launched such devices yet is how hard it is to shrink screens, batteries and radios to fit into them,” she explained.

Jessica Lessin previously reported Apple pitched an ad-skipping feature to Hollywood studios in regard to the rumored iTunes TV service.