Apple Buys Mobile Chip Maker Passif Semiconductor. Are Mobile Payments On The Way?

The move could point to interesting developments in its mobile device future.

In a scoop, ex-Wall Street Journal writer Jessica Lessin has learned that Apple purchased chip-making firm Passif Semiconductor, a small California-based firm that concentrates on "switch-based wireless receivers with a low power consumption and a small footprint." Apple confirmed the deal with AllThingsD.com.

The acquisition, according to the online scuttlebutt, is an indication that Apple is interested in the sort of short-range radio communications that make systems like Bluetooth work. Some speculation suggests Apple also bought Passif to access its knowledge so it can build a wireless payments service, something that's long been rumored.

By acquiring expertise like this, Apple seems to be trying to take more of its chip development tasks in-house and reduce the need to rely on on "frenemy" rivals like Samsung to provide some of the silicon chips vital to Apple's flagship iPhone and iPad products. The company has previously bought chip-making firms like Intrinsity to beef up its in-house chip expertise. This and other acquisitions led to Apple creating the A-series chips, its own ARM-based silicon that powers its iDevices. Apple has been on a spending spree recently, buying location firms Locationary and HopStop. It may be trying to demonstrate to its shareholders that it has plans to use its enormous cash hoard to secure its next-generation product development plans.

[Image via Flickr user: James Irwin]

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