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Monday, September 24, 2012, 03:46 pm PT (06:46 pm ET)

AuthenTec to reportedly ditch non-Apple customers in 2013

Fingerprint sensor maker AuthenTec on Monday reportedly notified existing customers that it will not be offering its security technology to the companies starting next year, causing a "state of panic" as the firms scramble to find comparable replacements.

In an email to its customers, which includes Samsung, HP, Dell, Lenovo and Fujitsu, Apple acquisition AuthenTec reportedly said it will no longer be honoring orders come 2013, a source told Korean language website etnews.

The announcement may be an indication of what Apple plans to do with the company and its technology after purchasing the firm in July for $356 million. AuthenTec is well known for its work in fingerprint sensor tech and it was rumored that Apple might be looking to implement the biometric security asset into an upcoming iPhone.

A filing with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission in August hinted at an advanced piece of hardware dubbed the "Smart Sensor" was key to Apple's acquisition. The sophisticated component goes further than simple fingerprint scanning by acting as a full-fledged touch pad controller, allowing UI navigation with one finger. The sensor is also capable of identifying different fingers which can be associated with certain tasks, like opening the phone app with a thumb or sending an email with a forefinger. One of the first companies to use the specialized part was Fujitsu with its Regza smartphone.

Smart Sensor

AuthenTec's Smart Sensor technology. | Source: AuthenTec


Before the iPhone 5 debuted on Sept. 12, rampant speculation pointed to inclusion of AuthenTec's sensors as part of a possible augmentation of Apple's Passbook app, which stores digital coupons, tickets and gift cards. The rumors turned out to be just that, however, as no biometric devices were found in the unit's teardown.

While it remains unclear what Apple plans to do with AuthenTec's IP, for now the Cupertino company seems content in leveraging its new purchase to disrupt rival manufacturers' plans for fingerprint-based security.