Apple announced on Wednesday that it would award $390 million to Finisar Corp., a company that makes vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers or VCSELs. The technology is found on the iPhone X’s True Depth camera and it might be the future of AR sensors for the tech giant.
The money, which is an award from Apple’s $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund and not any sort of equity investment, will go to the development of a new manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas that will, in turn, create lots of jobs for specialists in the sector.
For the media, the move represents basically a strategic step in Apple’s route moving forward to better position themselves as key backers of technology they are going to need for their next generation of devices. It is expected that their lineup relies more and more on this depth-sensing tech over the next couple of years.
Innovation in the heart of Texas! Proud to team up with @Finisar, the latest recipient from our Advanced Manufacturing Fund. Their new site will create hundreds of jobs building iPhone components in Sherman, Tex.https://t.co/SYgP3VvIgr
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) December 13, 2017
What is Finisar and what are VCSELs?
Finisar Corporation is a firm that has been around for longer than you might imagine. It was founded in 1988 as a manufacturer of optical communications equipment and components, the sort Apple is soon going to need lots of.
It barely survived the dotcom crash on the eve of the new millennium, but now it is standing strong and about to get stronger thanks to their focus on vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, or VCSELs for short. These sensors use lasers to track movements at a small scale, exactly what Apple needs going forward.
The technology behind much of Apple’s latest mobile platform, shown at its fullest on the new iPhone X, requires movement tracking to perform tasks dependent on facial recognition, such as unlocking through Face ID, taking selfies in Portrait mode with the True Depth cam, or simply using the Animoji feature.
— BI Tech (@SAI) December 13, 2017
Apple’s award will give them influence over VSCEL supply
Of course, as every strategic partnership in the industry, Apple and Finisar’s new friendship serves an ulterior purpose, which is having privileged access and priority to an enhanced supplier of laser sensors that, eventually, will find their way on every device with a bitten apple logo stamped on the back.
The tech giant had one other supplier for the iPhone X, but having Finisar’s ear by enhancing their production capabilities locally serves them better and is more coherent with their narrative. The Advanced Manufacturing Fund is destined for U.S. firms that need financial bolstering to continue pursuing ambitious endeavors in tech.
Apple’s almost $400 million will let the laser company set up a 700,000-square foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, and create more than 500 new jobs in everything from maintenance to engineering. Going forward, the bond might tighten as demand grows for the technology, a stage that might come sooner than later based on stock valuation Wednesday afternoon.