Motives Behind Apple’s Wi-Gear Bluetooth Acquisition [Updated]

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UPDATE (Editor’s Note): According to Tech Trader Daily, Apple has not acquired Wi-Gear:

“The rumor is false,” Wi-Gear CEO Mark Pundsack said via e-mail in response to an inquiry from Tech Trader Daily. “Wi-Gear and its IP are still available for sale.”

We’ve updated the story throughout to reflect this new information.

Apple has acquired Bluetooth headphone maker Wi-Gear, according to a new report. The Such a purchase could result in new Bluetooth headsets for use with iOS devices and Mac computers, but what’s more interesting is what it a purchase says about Apple’s acquisition strategy and the future of accessory makers working in its ecosystem.

Why Wi-Gear

Wi-Gear, which made the iMuffs A2DP stereo headphones for the iPhone, as well as a Bluetooth 2.0 adapter for earlier generation devices which lacked onboard support for the communication technology, was bought by Apple around two months ago, according to 9t05mac. The report is further supported by evidence found on LinkedIn. A former Wi-Gear engineer’s profile says that he joined Apple’s Bluetooth team exactly two months ago, precisely when Apple is supposed to have acquired the accessory-maker. This is the same method used to ferret out Apple’s purchase of semiconductor IP firm Intrinsity.

While initially, Wi-Gear may seem like an unlikely target, a simple search reveals that reviewers consistently give the iMuffs very high marks. It’s It would be a buy that keeps with Apple’s overall strategy of acquiring smaller companies that excel at what they do, but aren’t yet at an advanced state of maturity. Wi-Gear is only five years old, and would brings highly specialized IP into the Apple fold. However, the company is now confirmed to be out of business.

How it Would Fits Apple’s Overall Acquisition Plan

If you look at GigaOM Pro analyst Michaels Wolf’s acquisition rubric governing Apple’s purchases (subscription required), a Wi-Gear buy would makes perfect sense. Apple would gets increased control over call and music quality associated with its devices; it can now would be able to create a high-quality, Apple-branded Bluetooth stereo solution tailored to iPhone that will help further differentiate it from Google’s all-third party hardware strategy; and it can would be able to cash in directly on the wireless headphone accessory market that has sprung up around its products.

A Warning Shot for Accessory Makers

It’s that last point that should have accessory makers worried. The iOS accessory ecosystem is one of the most profitable for third-party device manufacturers. Much like Twitter did in early days with third-party apps, Apple has used that accessories ecosystem to provide value-add incentives to draw customers to its products. Now that Apple’s available cash exceeds $50 billion, the company is keen on making strategic acquisitions, and part of that strategy could involve profiting more directly from the ecosystem third-party companies have helped create and grow.

As Geoffrey Goetz noted, Apple’s past two media events have had potentially devastating consequences for businesses and even entire industries that depend on the Mac-maker in one way or another to make money. Until now, those consequences have been largely the result of component decisions or software releases, but this latest acquisition could signal the beginning of the end for accessory makers closest to Apple’s core business, too.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

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