AWT News Update: June 26, 2017

"Why yes, I do look like a total nerd wearing these glasses!" Image via SensoMotoric Instruments

"Why yes, I do look like a total nerd wearing these glasses!" Image via SensoMotoric Instruments

The last Monday in the month of June brings us stories about failed startups, Apple acquisitions, contested deals, and insurance discounts...

  • A startup launched by three ex-Apple iPod engineers closes down shop
  • Remember the Toshiba memory business sale we talked about last week? Western Digital isn't happy at all about who won the auction of the memory biz
  • A new Apple acquisition could have long-lasting impact on the company's VR and AR plans
  • Tim Cook, speaking at a Cisco event, promises enterprises discounts on cyber-security insurance if companies use both Apple and Cisco products

The text version of the podcast can be viewed below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below. Apple News readers need to visit Apple World Today in order to listen to the podcast.

Text Version

This is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and you’re listening to the AWT News Update for June 26th, 2017. 

Sometimes Apple employees leave and do their own startups, which are sometimes successful and sometimes not. One of the latter is an automotive startup called Pearl Automation, which was founded by three ex-Apple iPod engineers and then staffed by dozens of other ex-Apple employees. The company was planning on developing autonomous driving technology, and created a wireless rear-view camera mounted in a license plate holder as its first product. Well, the Pearl camera didn’t do well in the market, and the company was burning cash quickly, even after raising $50 million in venture capital funding from a handful of VC firms. Pearl Automation had several offers from companies that wanted to buy the firm and hire the staff, but the team decided to shut down and part ways instead. Perhaps they’ll all end up back at Apple working on Project Titan soon.

You may remember hearing a story last week where we talked about an $18 billion deal for Toshiba’s memory division, which ended up going to a bidding team from Bain Capital, Mitsubishi, and Japanese government investors. Now Western Digital is opposing the sale, as it had licensed some of its core technologies to Toshiba, and it turns out that some of the funding provided by the Japanese government came from one of Western Digital’s biggest rivals - SK Hynix. That company is a large South Korean semiconductor memory producer and apparently was expecting some business opportunities to come out of its funding. Yesterday, Western Digital filed an injunction on the sale of Toshiba’s memory business and a US court ruling on the injunction is expected on July 14. 

It was obvious during the recent WWDC keynote that Apple expects to make a splash in both the augmented reality and virtual reality markets. Today, news sources revealed that Apple has acquired a company called SensoMotoric Instruments that makes eye tracking hardware. In its current form, the technology records and tracks a wearer’s eye direction in real-time or essentially 120 times per second. In VR, this could be very valuable, as the technology could reduce input lag that could cut down on motion sickness that’s common in VR settings where the perception of movement doesn’t match a shift in perspective. The company’s hardware is used for augmented reality applications, early autism detection in children, brain mapping and neurology, vision science, psychology, physical training and more. With the purchase, we may see the technology work its way into the rumored Apple Smart Glasses that will work with Apple’s ARKit technology and allow a user to see data overlaid on whatever her or she is looking at. 

Networking super company Cisco has been partnering with Apple on some projects, and today Apple CEO Tim Cook surprised a lot of people by appearing onstage at a Cisco event where he revealed plans to help businesses who use products from both Apple and Cisco to get discounts on cyber-security insurance. An app called Cisco Security Connector for iPhone and iPad will appear this fall, offering security functionality from Cisco Umbrella and Cisco Clarity in a single app. The app will aid in investigations of security incidents, block users from connecting to malicious websites, and encrypt DNS requests. Cook wants to make sure that if companies are using Apple products on networks running Cisco security software, the combination of products will end up costing the companies less for cyber-security insurance. 

That’s all for today ; I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.