Apple Cranked Up Acquisition Spending During December Quarter

Apple campus

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently released earnings results revealed that the iPhone maker hasn’t just been idly sitting on its $159 billion cash hoard. Compared to the year-ago quarter, the California-based company significantly boosted the amount it spent on acquisitions during the last quarter. According to the company’s 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple paid out $525 million for business acquisitions for the quarter ending in December. As noted by Bloomberg, that is nearly double what Apple spent on acquisitions in the last quarter of calendar year 2012.

Unlike many other major tech companies, Apple does not usually target large businesses for its acquisition efforts. Instead, the company focuses on buying smaller companies whenever it needs to acquire a specific technology to augment a certain product or service. For example, Apple has previously purchased several mapping app companies in order to improve its native Apple Maps app. Last quarter, Apple acquired BroadMap, a mapping firm that offers a wide range of mapping services using Geographic Information Systems (or, GIS) data.

Some of Apple’s other acquisitions last quarter included personal assistant app Cue and social analytics company Topsy Labs. Some industry watchers have speculated that both companies may be intended to bolster Siri’s abilities. Apple also purchased 3D vision and motion-sensing technology company PrimeSense. PrimeSense’s technology was used to power Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 Kinect system. Although it is unknown what Apple will use PrimeSense’s technology for, some commentators believe that Apple will incorporate motion-sensing control functions into a future Apple television product.

Apple also purchased SnappyLabs, the company behind the popular SnappyCam iPhone camera app. The SnappyCam app enables the iPhone’s camera to take 20 to 30 high-resolution photos per second. It is widely expected that Apple will incorporate this technology into the next iOS update.

Apple’s increased acquisition activity last quarter is part of an overall trend in the company’s spending. For example, Apple purchased three times as many companies in fiscal 2013 than it did in fiscal 2012. CEO Tim Cook noted Apple’s steady increase in acquisitions during the company’s 2013 fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call in October. “We also completed 15 strategic acquisitions,” said Cook. “That’s an average of one acquisition every three to four weeks.”

Cook described Apple’s acquisition philosophy at an investor conference hosted by Goldman Sachs in 2012. “[W]e’re disciplined and thoughtful, and we don’t feel a pressure to go out and acquire revenue,” said Cook via the Wall Street Journal. “We want to make great products. If a large company could help us, then that would be of interest. But again, deliberate, thoughtful, is our mantra.”

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: