Apple ready to expand Advanced Manufacturing Fund beyond $1B, COO says

Posted:
in General Discussion
After Apple announced plans to infuse $390 million into U.S. firm Finisar as part of its $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund, COO Jeff Williams commented on the company's investment strategy, saying the figure is "absolutely not" a final cap.




In a brief interview with CNBC, Williams said Apple is more concerned about incubating new and novel technologies than it is a hard fund limit. He said bringing innovative technology to market is often a "very capital intensive" operation, as evidenced by the recent grant to Finisar.

"We're not thinking in terms of a fund limit," Williams said. "We're thinking about, where are the opportunities across the U.S. to help nurture companies that are making the advanced technology -- and the advanced manufacturing that goes with that -- that quite frankly is essential to our innovation."

Earlier today, Apple said it planned to dole out $390 million to U.S. firm Finisar in an investment that will "exponentially increase its R&D spending and high-volume production." Finisar is currently Apple's second-largest supplier of vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) arrays, a component that makes up the dot projector in iPhone X's TrueDepth camera.

The money will go toward the acquisition and buildout of a 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Tex. Finisar announced plans for the Sherman facility in an earnings report last week, but did not disclose Apple's involvement in the endeavor.

At the time, analyst Gene Munster noted Finisar's purchase would greatly boost VCSEL output, suggesting the firm likely received final qualification from Apple for its manufacturing process. The development means Finisar can start pumping out large quantity shipments next year, hinting that all 2018 iPhone models will transition from Touch ID to Face ID.

Apple first announced the creation of its Advanced Manufacturing Fund in May, saying capital backing the initiative comes from the company's U.S. investment pool. Counting Finisar, the fund has been applied to two firms, the first being a $200 million investment in Corning to develop "revolutionary glass production methods."

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    Smart economics and smart politics. And much less distracting than acquiring and interesting whole companies. 
  • Reply 2 of 8
    Apple's $390 million "investment" in Finisar is a stroke of brilliance.

    Traditionally, new technologies rollout at very high prices, generating the cash flow needed to recapture R&D and facilities build out, then after those costs are recaptured prices drop precipitously.  The problem is achieving scale with those initial high prices, which can take up to 3-5 years with traditional new technology rollouts.

    Apple wants that technology, but wants it now.  So instead of waiting for Finisar to finance scale up internally, Apple "grants" Finisar the funds necessary to greatly expand production capacity.  Apple can now adopt that new technology into its entire product line now, without waiting for the industry to generate price reducing scale.

    Apple expenses the $390 million as a COGS over a 3-5 year period, but gets the production volume it requires today, not 3-5 years from now.  And, because of its $390 million "grant" Apple gets exclusive rights to Finisar's production capacity, denying competitors from using it in their own products for 3-5 years.

    How far ahead of Android is Apple?  Three to five years.  But by then (5 years?) Apple will have shipped >1.250 billion VSCEL equipped devices.  Then even after Android gets access to VSCEL technology, with the above described upgrade rates, it will take years to match (if ever it does) Apple's installed base, especially when one considers Android ASPs, which will not support the production costs of VCSEL equipped devices.

    Brilliant.  Simply brilliant.
    macky the mackyRayz2016radarthekatfastasleep
  • Reply 3 of 8
    Apple's $390 million "investment" in Finisar is a stroke of brilliance.

    Traditionally, new technologies rollout at very high prices, generating the cash flow needed to recapture R&D and facilities build out, then after those costs are recaptured prices drop precipitously.  The problem is achieving scale with those initial high prices, which can take up to 3-5 years with traditional new technology rollouts.

    Apple wants that technology, but wants it now.  So instead of waiting for Finisar to finance scale up internally, Apple "grants" Finisar the funds necessary to greatly expand production capacity.  Apple can now adopt that new technology into its entire product line now, without waiting for the industry to generate price reducing scale.

    Apple expenses the $390 million as a COGS over a 3-5 year period, but gets the production volume it requires today, not 3-5 years from now.  And, because of its $390 million "grant" Apple gets exclusive rights to Finisar's production capacity, denying competitors from using it in their own products for 3-5 years.

    How far ahead of Android is Apple?  Three to five years.  But by then (5 years?) Apple will have shipped >1.250 billion VSCEL equipped devices.  Then even after Android gets access to VSCEL technology, with the above described upgrade rates, it will take years to match (if ever it does) Apple's installed base, especially when one considers Android ASPs, which will not support the production costs of VCSEL equipped devices.

    Brilliant.  Simply brilliant.

    Not to mention the added halo of supporting US manufacturing firms! (I'm assuming Tex. is TX).
  • Reply 4 of 8
    It's astonishing to me to see how much money Apple is spending on investments and purchases compared to where they were 20 years ago, where they were nearly going bankrupt. Go Apple go!
  • Reply 5 of 8
    Apple's $390 million "investment" in Finisar is a stroke of brilliance.

    Traditionally, new technologies rollout at very high prices, generating the cash flow needed to recapture R&D and facilities build out, then after those costs are recaptured prices drop precipitously.  The problem is achieving scale with those initial high prices, which can take up to 3-5 years with traditional new technology rollouts.

    Apple wants that technology, but wants it now.  So instead of waiting for Finisar to finance scale up internally, Apple "grants" Finisar the funds necessary to greatly expand production capacity.  Apple can now adopt that new technology into its entire product line now, without waiting for the industry to generate price reducing scale.

    Apple expenses the $390 million as a COGS over a 3-5 year period, but gets the production volume it requires today, not 3-5 years from now.  And, because of its $390 million "grant" Apple gets exclusive rights to Finisar's production capacity, denying competitors from using it in their own products for 3-5 years.

    How far ahead of Android is Apple?  Three to five years.  But by then (5 years?) Apple will have shipped >1.250 billion VSCEL equipped devices.  Then even after Android gets access to VSCEL technology, with the above described upgrade rates, it will take years to match (if ever it does) Apple's installed base, especially when one considers Android ASPs, which will not support the production costs of VCSEL equipped devices.

    Brilliant.  Simply brilliant.
    This is just politically motivated marketing of totally normal business investments.  

    That’s not a criticism of Apple management — they are doing a highly competent job of running their business, just as they have been doing ever since Steve Jobs returned back int he 1990s. 

    The only new thing here is that they are slapping a marketing label on what they’ve been doing all along. Nothing wrong with that — they are just being smart, responding to incentives. 

    The only criticism I have is for people who think there’s actually something substantively new or impressive here. There isn’t. 


    ksec
  • Reply 6 of 8
    Room scale VSCELs? Indoor mapping?
  • Reply 7 of 8
    Room scale VSCELs? Indoor mapping?
    My only thought is that I hope Apple is able to keep this technology safe...can you imagine instant recognition of all people in any space? Hopefully that will not fall into wrong hands.
  • Reply 8 of 8
    Room scale VSCELs? Indoor mapping?
    My only thought is that I hope Apple is able to keep this technology safe...can you imagine instant recognition of all people in any space? Hopefully that will not fall into wrong hands.
    As soon as something is released to customers/buyers, assume it will eventually result in both positive and negative extremes.
Sign In or Register to comment.