Apple's purchase of SnappyCam is the most recent evidence of its move away from being resistant to mergers and buyouts formed when co-founder Steve Jobs was CEO.
The number of buyouts is heating up as Apple faces tougher competition and increasing criticism for its lack of in-house innovation. Despite years of anticipation, Apple-branded smartwatches and TV products have yet to materialize. It is expected to unveil an iWatch in late 2014. Meantime, Samsung and smaller tech players like Pebble have beat Apple to market with smartwatches.
Shares of Apple are down more than 22% from their all-time high set in September 2012. Apple's stock Friday fell $12.15, 2.2%, to close at $540.98. (Get the latest quote.)
Last year, Apple bought 11 companies, ranging from social media analytics company TopsyLabs in December to Hopstop.com, a travel information site, in July, says S&P Capital IQ. That was up from just two buyouts in 2011, the last year Jobs served as CEO. Apple only bought one company in all of 2009, a music service called Lala.com that was a rising threat against iTunes, which Apple later shuttered. And in 2010, Apple bought just four companies.
(Read more: Apple shares bounce on China deal)
Apple's latest deal underscores how the quality and usability of cameras in smartphones are increasingly important to users and are becoming selling points for handheld devices. Much of the industry is still playing catch-up with Nokia in this area. Nokia last year launched the Nokia 1020 smartphone, the first smartphone able to capture images at 41 megapixels. Nokia also bundles smartphones with advanced photo processing apps and software.
—By Matt Krantz of USA Today