Apple's iPhone and iPad have become a mainstay in today's enterprise setting, in view of the higher level of security that the iOS platform offers over main rival Android. But with Apple's recent acquisition of security company AuthenTec Inc, future releases of the iPhone, iPad and the MacBook might be even more secure with fingerprint-based identification built in.

Apple rarely makes big-ticket acquisitions. But when it does, consumers and competitors would usually have to watch out for major feature inclusions in its product lines. Apple's most recent acquisition involves AuthenTec, a firm that specializes in mobile security, and which counts several of Apple's competitors -- including Samsung, LG, Motorola, Nokia and HP -- in its client list.

Security, Data Protection

According AuthenTec, Apple has agreed to acquire the company for US$ 8 per share, for a total of US$ 356 million. A K-8 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission says AuthenTec entered into an Intellectual Property and Technology Agreement with Apple this Thursday, which gives the Cupertino-based smartphone maker non-exclusive licenses to AuthenTec's hardware and software technologies, as well as its patent portfolio.

AuthenTec's main offerings are network security and content and data protection. What's more intriguing is AuthenTec's fingerprint security offerings for desktop and mobile devices. This is mainly done through the TouchChip fingerprint sensors and modules, which offer reduced size and power requirements relative to optical-based fingerprint solutions.

AuthenTec says it has already shipped 100 million of these sensors, 20 million of which are already built into mobile phones. Will this mean that future iPhone, iPad and MacBook releases might come with fingerprint-authentication technology built-in?

Learning Opportunities

Apple's Growing Patent Portfolio

It may not just be the fingerprinting, as AuthenTec does not deal solely in fingerprint-based technologies. Apple also benefits from AuthenTec's NFC payment security technology. Apple may be planning to implement more secure NFC-based payments in a future iPhone.

Apart from NFC and fingerprint hardware, Apple benefits from 200 technology patents relating to fingerprinting, which are considered "foundational" to this particular branch of biometrics.

One thing to note is that AuthenTec has just signed an agreement with Sasmung last week to bundle the AuthenTec QuickSec mobile VPN client in the Korean firm's Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. Will this further escalate the intellectual property dispute between Apple and Samsung in their ongoing patent wars?