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Apple silently acquired 24 companies in the last 1 1/2 year

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May 4, 2014

Apple silently acquired no less than 24 companies in the last 1 1/2 year, CEO Tim Cook revealed in a conference call last week following the company's second-quarter earnings report.

Obviously, Apple has done a very good job of keeping those acquisitions from escaping the confines of its head offices.

However, one single name may have slipped loose Friday-- LuxVue Technology, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup that makes low-power, micro LED-based displays for use in consumer electronics, was recently acquired by Apple for an undisclosed sum, according to a report.

But Apple has now confirmed the acquisition on Friday. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

It's still unclear at this time if LuxVue is one of the 24 companies Cook mentioned last week or not, meaning that the deal was struck at some point in the last couple of months or if the acquisition is part of a new string of deals that the CEO says will not be slowing down anytime soon. "We're on the prowl, I suppose you could say," Cook said.

Apple's frequent acquisitions of technology startups has remained steady and mostly secret while other other large technology corporations have been forced to make big splashes with more high-profile acquisitions.

For example, Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of smart device maker Nest and Facebook's two eye-popping acquisitions-- virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR for $2 billion and messaging platform WhatsApp for $19 billion have garnered substantial media attention thanks to the price tags and strategic power plays involved.

Cook stresses that the aim with Apple acquisitions is not to make flashy entrances into new markets by buying existing front-runners. Rather, it's about folding in talent and technology potentially valuable to Apple's core products and its experimental R&D in areas like wearables and next-generation mobile displays, to name just a few.

"What's important to us is that strategically it makes sense and that it winds up adding real value to our shareholders over the long term," Cook explained.

"We are not in a race to spend the most or acquire the most. We're in a race to make the world's best products, that really enrich people's lives. And so to the tune that acquisitions can help us do that and they've done that and continue to do that, then we will acquire. And so you can bet that you will continue to see acquisitions and some of which we'll try to keep quiet and some of which seems to be impossible to keep quiet."

With LuxVue, Apple gains a well-funded maker of display technology that could benefit advancements in battery life or possibly screens for new Apple device categories like the rumored "iWatch" wearable.

The startup, founded in 2009, had accumulated $43.8 million in venture capital funding primarily from ID Ventures America and Kleiner Perkins.

Beyond that, information about LuxVue is spotty at best, though the company holds numerous micro LED patents and its technology has been described by Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr as "a technical breakthrough in displays."

In other mobile news

Verizon Wireless started to offer the LG Optimus Exceed 2 smartphone to its subscribers yesterday. It's now available for $250, or for just $80 if you choose a Verizon prepaid contract.

To be fair, the Exceed 2 is rather as humble as smartphones go. The 4.5-inch display sports a relatively small 800 by 400 pixel resolution, and its 1.2 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is paired with a mere 1 GB of RAM.

You're also only getting 4 GB of internal memory, though the phone will support up to 32 GB Micro-SD cards if you ever decide to upgrade down the road.

However, that doesn't inspire too much confidence in the phone's 5-megapixel version, but the 2,100 mAh battery should last for 12 hours of use.

The Exceed 2 runs Android 4.4 which is neat, but we'd recommend not holding out hope for a steady stream of updates down the line.

We'll hold our judgment until we get a unit in for review, but you can get a Motorola Moto G for $179 and without any contract, with slightly better specs and twice the storage space. If you're not averse to signing up for a contract, the Moto X is free and at least offers LTE. We suppose the Exceed 2 does have a few LG-centric features in its favor.

For example, Knock Code lets you tap a specific pattern out onto your phone to unlock it, in case you've ever wanted to do that. And we've admittedly always being a sucker for LG's "cheese shutter," which snaps a photo when you say "cheese." Pretty cool.

But maybe that $80 prepaid-contract price is too sweet to pass up. Scoot along to Verizon's site to judge for yourself.

In other mobile news

The meteoric rise in tablet sales could be tapering off a bit as analysts at IDC saw quarterly shipments fall short of previous sales forecasts.

The research firm estimates that while the market maintained positive growth over the same period last year, a number of top vendors did see their shipment volumes and market shares take a hit over last year's previous levels.

Among the hardest hit was Apple. But the company had previously warned of a drop in sales from its iPad line as shipments were down from last year's quarter.

According to IDC, the drop of 3.1 million units, to 16.4 million total, dragged Apple's total market share from 40.2 percent to 32.5 percent of all tablet shipments.

Overall, Samsung had no such worries though. The South Korean consumer electronics behemoth logged a 32 percent year over year increase on the back of 11.2 million shipments.

The company's 22.3 percent share, up from 17.5 percent in 2013, was good enough for second in the market behind Apple.

Lenovo also saw a jump in market as the company moved 2.1 million units, an increase of 224.3 percent over last year's first quarter tally.

Lenovo remains fourth overall behind Asus, which saw a 2.8 percent drop in shipments but still holds a 5 percent market share, compared to Lenovo's 4.1 percent share.

The biggest hit in market share for the quarter was felt by Amazon. IDC said the Kindle maker saw a 47.1 percent decline in its shipments, delivering just 1 million tablets last quarter and claiming a meager 1.9 percent of the market, according to IDC.

The lower tablet numbers could suggest the end is approaching for the boom in tablets. After years of soaring sales, analysts believe that the market may be settling a bit and leveling off, particularly in more developed markets.

"The rise of large-screen phones and consumers who are holding on to their existing tablets for ever longer periods of time were both contributing factors to a weaker-than-anticipated quarter for tablets and 2-in-1s," noted IDC devices and displays program vice persident Tom Mainelli.

"Additionally, commercial growth has not been robust enough to offset the slowing of consumer shipments," IDC was quick to point out.

That slowdown may also come as a welcome bit of news for PC vendors who have consistently watched their market eroded quarter after quarter as more end users opted to trade in their notebooks and desktops for tablet systems.

A recent uptick in shipments thanks to the end of Windows XP was not enough to bring the market as a whole into the black, but still gave vendors reason to hope that the worst of the decline may be over.

In other mobile news

There's a whole lot more to Google Fiber than what most people think, and lately the company has been much in the news when the words Fiber Optics are mentioned, especially in Texas, where gaming enthusiasts are frustrated by the poor performance of a slow internet connection.

And here's what we mean by this: right in the middle of an online match, gamer's sessions often freeze up, leaving avatars unable to move or shoot.

At other times, the game would pause or the buffer wouldn't finish to upload itself, or opponents would suddenly pop up unexpectedly in another location as the game lurched forward in real time.

But now, gamers in Austin Texas are among the first to sign-up online for Google Fiber when it was announced in April of last year. However, those gamers now got a call from AT&T with an offer for its new GigaPower service. Even though the 1 Gbps service wasn't yet available, AT&T offered them 300 Mbps-- more than 15 times the speed they were paying for.

The cost of that service would drop from $208 a month to $120. When AT&T finishes upgrading the electronics on the network later this year, gamers expect to see a 50-fold improvement.

With network speeds this fast, gamers will be able to stream without buffering at least five high-definition videos at the same time and still have enough to play games and surf the Web.

Call it the Google Fiber effect. Google makes a splashy announcement that it intends to build a super high-speed network in a city. Competition follows, which translates into higher-speed services and lower prices for all consumers.

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"When you say to a community, 'Who wants fiber and a chance to have the most advanced network in the country and possibly the world?' you get a whole lot of hands going up," says Blair Levin, executive director for Gig.U project.

A year after Google unveiled its initial plans in Austin, investments in gigabit fiber networks are being announced across the country. Incumbent Internet providers like AT&T and new entrants alike are taking elements of the Google Fiber playbook and applying them to their own deployments as they try to stay ahead of Google.

AT&T last week said it was talking to 21 major metropolitan areas about an expansion of its U-verse service with GigaPower fiber service. Others, such as regional wireless operator C-Spire, which is using the Google Fiber business plan to build a fiber broadband network in Mississippi, are creating new lines of business using existing infrastructure.

How Google chooses the cities it deploys fiber to has been and still continues to be a mystery, but the site Tech Republic recently attempted to bring some clarity to Google's selection process.

Within a week of Google's declaration last spring that it planned to build a fiber network in the city of Austin, AT&T, which is based a few hours' drive away in Dallas, announced its own Austin fiber network. And in less than a year's time, AT&T and local cable operator Grande Communications have beaten Google to market with their own ultra-high speed services using newly built fiber networks.

"Google Fiber has been the biggest driver of the fiber-to-the home movement," said Blair Levin, executive director of the Gig.U project and head of the committee that wrote the 2010 National Broadband Plan for the Federal Communications Commission.

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Source: Apple.

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