Apple Makes a Flashy Buy

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As flashy as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) likes to be at times, when it comes to acquisitions, the Mac maker is decidedly unflashy. Well, except for the latest rumored acquisition of flash memory specialist Anobit.

Apple is supposedly in "advanced negotiations" to buy the small Israeli company for between $400 million and $500 million. Anobit is a fabless semiconductor company that specializes in flash storage solutions for enterprise and mobile markets, and it offers memory signal processing technology that enhances the endurance, performance, and cost of flash storage.

Anobit chips are already found in Apple gadgets like the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air, all of which rely on onboard flash storage. I'm even surprised it took Apple this long to make a flash-based acquisition, since the company is the world's biggest buyer of flash chips.

If the reports turn out true, it would end up being one of the most expensive acquisitions Apple has made and a rare departure from software-related purchases to pick up a hardware-based buy. It would also reinforce how Apple has the best supply chain in the world by making selective, targeted, and specialized acquisitions to further integrate its overall package.

Apple's famed acquisition of NeXT Software in 1996 -- the same one that heralded Steve Jobs' return -- has so far been its largest ever, totaling $404 million. The only other recent hardware-related purchases were P.A. Semi for $278 million and Intrinsity for $121 million, which paved the path for the custom designed ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) based A4 and A5 processors.

Other notable buys of late include music streamer Lala, which has undoubtedly contributed to iTunes Match, and mobile advertiser Quattro Wireless for around $275 million, leading to iAd. It bought Siri early last year, which turned into, well, Siri.

Apple is surely working on kicking the default Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Maps off the iPhone and replacing it with its own map app. Cupertino has made three separate map-software purchases that we have yet to see utilized: Placebase, Poly9, and just a couple months ago, C3 Technologies.

With $500 million representing the upper end of Apple's acquisition spectrum, it adds some context to why the occasional rumors that Apple is considering buying Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) -- whose market cap was just under $9 billion at the time -- or the even more absurd Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) pipedream are utter fantasy. This year alone we've seen silly speculation turn to Disney and even Barnes & Noble. It also explains why Apple would never pursue a bigger flash player like SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK  ) , whose market cap is now roughly $12 billion, even if it's interested in making a flashy acquisition.

Forget the Apple dividend, using its cash to make small and specialized acquisitions while locking down crucial supply components is the best use of its hoard.

Add Apple to your watchlist to see if it ends up purchasing Anobit. Flash storage is one component of the mobile revolution. For more on component suppliers set to capitalize on the mobile revolution, check out this 100% free report on 3 hidden winners of the mobile revolution.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of ARM Holdings, Apple, and Walt Disney, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Walt Disney, Google, and Netflix; and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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