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PrimeSense buy would open 'world of apps and services' for Apple

Computerworld staff | Nov. 19, 2013
Gartner analyst speculates on reports, says Apple's interest in 3-D gesture and scanning technology would be long-term investment meant to keep pace with rivals

Blau, who was shown Capri earlier in the year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), said that meeting and demonstration left him impressed, even after 25 years of tracking technology.

He scoped out several possible applications of PrimeSense's technology for Apple, but said one of the most intriguing was aimed at businesses — retail in particular. Sensors mounted in a store would help businesses better understand how customers shopped, he said, where they looked at products, whether they picked them off the shelf or rack, put them back or tossed them in a basket.

"This is an area where Apple could help businesses," said Blau. If tied to iBeacons, Apple's Bluetooth-based micro-locations system, it could radically change retail, he added.

To Blau, Apple's reported desire to acquire PrimeSense signaled that the Cupertino, Calif. company is more interested in buying technology, or perhaps patents, than in creating its own solely in-house. "There's always that 'buy or build' decision," said Blau. "If all kinds of Apple competitors came out with [similar sensing technologies], would Apple have the time to develop in-house? I see the PrimeSense deal as a response to that, a long-term investment that's part of their strategic plan for the next 5 or 10 years."

Apple has the cash — its war chest is the biggest of any technology company — and with much of it outside the U.S., using it to buy PrimeSense may be even more attractive.

Other firms, including Intel, Google and Microsoft, have acquired companies in the gesture and 3-D scanning space — last July, Intel snapped up Israeli startup Omek Interactive for a reported $50 million — perhaps putting pressure on Apple to buy while there's a company worth buying still around, Blau said. "There is a lot of effort under way to incorporate this technology in laptops, televisions, smartphones and tablets," Blau said, contending that all mobile devices will have gesture and 3-D scanning sensors in them at some point, just as most now have accelerometers.

And Apple wouldn't want to be left out in the cold.

"The question is what can Apple do with this technology," Blau said. [The answer is that] there's almost a world of apps and services that could incorporate it."


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