Apple parts ways with SurfaceInk

Fri, Aug 27, 2010


For a company as keen on keeping things in-house as Apple, it might surprise you to find out that Apple has routinely worked together with outside design firms to help them create prototype devices for upcoming products and research purposes.

One of those design companies is SurfaceInk, a Silicon Valley based company who had previously worked with Apple on a number of initiatives over the past 10 years. But those days of cooperation have now come to an end as the New York Times is now reporting that the 2 companies have chosen to part ways.

[SurfaceInk CEO Eric] Bauswell declined to give details of its relationship with Apple, citing client confidentiality agreements. But he said that his company was let go because of “Apple’s growing awareness of our turnkey capabilities,” referring to SurfaceInk’s business of designing products for its clients. “I think they view our capabilities as an opportunity for competitors, “ he said.

While it’s not entirely clear what prompted the split, the Times article suggests that it most likely had something to do with the iPad and the slew of competitors looking to challenge iApple’s tablet dominance. Reportedly, SurfaceInk’s turnkey business, where it designs products and subsequently licenses them out to tech companies, is what ultimately irked Apple.

It was that latest part of SurfaceInk’s business, which the company began about five years ago, that apparently unsettled Apple. While SurfaceInk had gotten clients mostly through word of mouth, in June it publicized a prototype 12.1-inch tablet during an electronics trade show.

The device was meant to showcase SurfaceInk’s design capabilities to potential clients, Mr. Bauswell said. He said that Apple viewed those capabilities as a potential competitive threat.


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