Apr. 7, 2014, 6:47 PM
- The Information reports Google (GOOG) is "in early talks" to buy Skybox Imaging, a startup looking to sell high-res satellite imagery and related analytics services to businesses.
- The company has also reportedly "expressed interest" in solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace, though The Information says it's "unclear how far talks have gone."
- TechCrunch reported last month Facebook was in talks to buy Titan. Since then, the social networking giant has unveiled its Connectivity Lab, which aims to use drones to provide to provide Internet access to areas lacking it (it could compete with Google's Project Loon).
- Skybox's imagery would complement Google Maps/Earth, and its analytics efforts could mesh with Google's attempts to use massive computing power and A.I./deep learning technology in fields ranging from mobile assistant apps to robotics to self-driving cars.
- A Skybox deal could have implications for leading satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe (DGI).
Mar. 26, 2014, 1:10 PM
- Google (GOOG -0.4%) appears to have "seriously sniffed around" Oculus VR before Facebook (FB -3.8%) closed a deal to buy the VR headset maker, Kara Swisher reports. Meanwhile, The Verge reports "several big companies" had made overtures to Oculus (no names are given), and that the startup's VC investors "offered the company more money to go it alone."
- Over time, Oculus' Rift headset, which Facebook hopes will be used for many non-gaming applications, could compete against Google Glass. For now, they address different markets: Rift is much heavier/bulkier than Glass, but also provides an immersive VR/3D gaming experience.
- During a CC, Mark Zuckerberg asserted the Rift is "way ahead" of rival products such as Sony's (SNE -0.4%) Morpheus (due in 2015), and that Oculus' talent is unmatched. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe argues Facebook's resources will help make the Rift cheaper (the dev. kit currently goes for $350).
- Stacy Higginbotham remains an Oculus skeptic: While calling a demo she tried out "immersive and neat," she adds it was "nothing like real life." Brad Stone thinks "there's nothing social" about headsets that "[blot] out absolutely everything around you."
- Jim Edwards, defending the deal, calls the Rift the kind of product for which words can't describe "how incredible the experience of wearing one is." VC Chris Dixon, who backed Oculus, makes a similar case.
- Some game developers are unhappy about the deal. As are some of the Kickstarter backers who poured $2.4M into Oculus, and only have t-shirts and dev. kits to show for it. Facebook has joined several other Internet momentum stocks in selling off in the wake of King's disappointing IPO.
- Previous: Facebook buying Oculus, more details
Mar. 12, 2014, 11:45 AM
- Google (GOOG +0.4%) has bought some of the assets of Green Throttle Games, maker of a Bluetooth game controller for Android hardware, and has also hired part of the startup's team.
- The purchase comes amid reports Google is getting set to launch a Nexus set-top capable of playing Android games. Amazon and Apple are also reportedly prepping set-tops that double as casual gaming consoles.
- Crain's reports Google plans to open an 8K-sq. foot retail store in Manhattan. The reports comes after Google built a giant barge (recently kicked out of S.F. Bay) that many think is meant to act as a floating showroom.
- Google has ended a search banner ad test launched last year. The test had raised eyebrows, given it represented the first time Google placed banners within search results, and that the ads were focused on branding rather than conversions.
- Google has launched an add-on store for Docs and Sheets, and is also now offering a $15 referral bonus for Google Apps for Business sign-ups. Though its pricing and collaboration tools have helped Apps achieve a measure of success, its lack of on-premise apps have arguably limited its gains against Office/Office 365.
- Google Capital (focused on later-stage tech companies) is continuing its rapid investment pace by leading an $85M investment round in credit score-tracking site Credit Karma. Google Capital, given a $300M infusion this year, has already put $40M into educational software firm Renaissance Learning, and $50M into real estate auction site Auction.com.
Feb. 26, 2014, 1:25 PM
- Media reports that Google (GOOG +0.5%) made an offer to buy WhatsApp are "simply untrue," says Android/Chrome chief Sundar Pichai. Fortune had reported Google offered $10B for the mobile messaging leader, and others suggested Google was even willing to top Facebook's (FB +0.7%) $19B offer.
- Pichai's remarks come shortly after Mark Zuckerberg met with top mobile carrier execs, including Vodafone (VOD -1.3%) CEO Vittorio Colao and Orange (ORAN -3.6%) CEO Stephane Richard, to address concerns carriers are being reduced to "dumb pipes" as services such as Facebook and WhatsApp proliferate, and in doing so eat into voice/SMS revenue.
- Zuck is looking to enlist carriers such as Vodafone and Orange in its Internet.org initiative to provide free access to basic Web services in emerging markets. Colao recently said offering free Facebook access to Vodafone subs "does not make any sense" for the carrier.
- Meanwhile, WhatsApp rival Telegram has rocketed to the top of App Store charts in many countries since the Facebook deal went down, and WhatsApp saw a weekend outage. Telegram claims to offer better security than alternatives, and also features a Snapchat-like self-delete option for message threads.
- Though no WhatsApp rivals come close to matching the service's 465M MAUs and network effect, Telegram's growth highlights how rivals can quickly gain a following by leveraging phone contact book listings to connect users.
Feb. 21, 2014, 9:28 AM
- Google (GOOG) has made its third security acquisition of 2014, acquiring click fraud detection tech developer Spider.io. for an undisclosed sum.
- Spider.io, whose technology uncovers click fraud stemming from malware, will be added to Google's DoubleClick unit, and will focus on detecting video/display ad fraud. Google says its long-term goal is to "improve the metrics that advertisers and publishers use to determine the value of digital media."
- The purchase comes on the heels of Google's acquisitions of SlickLogin, a developer of technology that relies on inaudible sounds transmitted by a smartphone to a PC to authenticate a user, and Impermium, a provider of cybersecurity/threat protection services.
Feb. 20, 2014, 7:15 AM
- Google (GOOG) offered to acquire WhatsApp for $10B, Fortune reports.
- While the figure is far less than the $19B Facebook is paying, there's no word on whether it would have been in cash and shares, or all in cash - Facebook is paying "just" $4B in cash.
- Unlike with Facebook, Google's bid for WhatsApp also didn't come with the offer of a board seat.
Feb. 7, 2014, 3:19 AM
- Reports that Google (GOOG) has purchased a 5.94% holding in Lenovo Group (LNVGY) for $750M are incorrect, the re/code Web site says.
- Re/code writes that the reports were due to a misreading of a filing by Reuters.
- Google is due to receive $750M worth of Lenovo shares as part of the deal to sell its Motorola handset division to the Chinese company for $2.91B in cash and stock.
Jan. 31, 2014, 7:20 PM
- After taking in Google's (GOOG) Q4 numbers, FBR estimates handing off Motorola Mobility to Lenovo (LNVGY) could boost the Web giant's op. margin by as much as 500 bps. Whereas Google proper has an op. margin of 34%, Motorola's losses dragged down the company's total op. margin to 29%.
- TechCrunch reports that with Motorola gone, newly-acquired Nest will serve as Google's primary hardware team. Nest, founded by iPod "godfather" Tony Fadell, will reportedly develop gadgets very different from the smart thermostats/smoke alarms it's known for.
- Many observers think the Lenovo sale is at least partly tied to Google's recent deals with Samsung (SSNLF). The reasoning: Samsung's reported willingness to embrace a vision of Android closer to Google's (toning down support for custom apps/UIs, and promoting Google apps/services) is linked to Google's decision to sell its mobile hardware unit.
- It's possible Google also gave Samsung favorable terms in their recent cross-licensing deal. In terms of patent portfolio/breadth, Google held the upper hand.
- In addition to keeping most of Motorola's patents, Google is holding onto the company's Advanced Technology unit, which is responsible for the Project Ara modular phone initiative.
- Lenovo says it will keep the Motorola brand in the U.S., and that it aims to eventually pass Apple and Samsung to be the world's largest smartphone vendor.
- Previous: Google earnings coverage
Jan. 29, 2014, 5:25 PM
- Just an hour after reports emerged Google (GOOG) is set to sell Motorola's phone ops to Lenovo (LNVGY), the deal has been announced by Larry Page. Lenovo will pay $2.91B for the struggling, loss-generating smartphone maker; Google will retain the "vast majority" of its patents.
- Page explains the deal by stating the smartphone market is "super competitive," and that "it helps to be all-in." He promises the sale doesn't have broader implications for Google's hardware efforts.
- Google paid $12.5B for Motorola Mobility in 2011. After backing out the Lenovo sale, the Arris sale, and $3.5B in cash, Google effectively paid ~$3.7B for Motorola's patents, assuming one doesn't count the losses the phone unit has produced under Google's control.
- The sale expands Lenovo's U.S. presence, and gives it access to Motorola's respected hardware engineering teams as it tries to grab high-end Android share from market leader Samsung (SSNLF). IDC estimates Lenovo had a 4.9% smartphone share in Q4 (up from 4.1% a year ago).
- The deal also removes a point of friction between Google and its Android partners. It shortly follows a report stating Google has pressured Samsung to tone down its Android UI changes and more strongly emphasize Google's apps/services, as it tries to exert greater control over Android's look and feel.
- GOOG +2.2% AH. In addition to the Motorola deal, shares could be getting a lift from Facebook's Q4 beat.
Jan. 29, 2014, 4:19 PM
- Reuters and China Daily both report Lenovo (LNVGY) is set to buy Motorola Mobility's phone unit from Google (GOOG). The former says the price tag is close to $3B; the latter says it's "at least" $2B. China Daily says the deal will be announced tomorrow morning in Beijing.
- Motorola Mobility has been bleeding share and (in spite of huge job cuts) posting big losses since Google's 2011 acquisition, as products such as the Moto X and Moto G fail to produce a turnaround in the face of stiff high-end competition from Samsung and Apple, and stiff low-end competition from a slew of Asian OEMs (including Lenovo).
- Google has already sold Motorola's set-top/cable infrastructure unit to Arris for $2.35B. The company will presumably hold onto Motorola's sizable mobile patent portfolio.
- Investors are pleased, GOOG +1.2% AH. Q4 results are due tomorrow.
Jan. 27, 2014, 4:00 AM
- Google (GOOG) has agreed to acquire British artificial-intelligence company DeepMind Technologies, which uses general-purpose learning algorithms for applications that include simulations, e-commerce and games.
- Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, although the Web site Re/code said Google is paying $400M.
- Re/code reckons the deal is in large part about buying talent: DeepMind was founded by former child chess prodigy and neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, who has been described as "probably the best games player in history."
- The purchase is Google's fourth this month, with the most notable a $3.2B agreement to buy Nest Labs.
Jan. 13, 2014, 4:24 PM
- Google (GOOG) is acquiring Nest Labs, a maker of intelligent thermostats and smoke alarms, for $3.2B in cash.
- Nest, founded by former Apple exec Tony Fadell (sometimes called the godfather of the iPod), has become a darling of the Silicon Valley startup scene by launching innovative, digitally-controlled home products that show an Apple-like design flair (and Apple-like pricing).
- Nest asserts its mission is to "reinvent unloved but important devices in the home." The startup should provide a major boost to Google's home automation efforts (Android will doubtlessly play an important role in them).
- Before the acquisition, Nest was reported to be close to raising funding at a $2B+ valuation. Even in the current environment, the deal's price tag is bound to raise some eyebrows.
- GOOG +0.8% AH.
Dec. 14, 2013, 6:25 PM
- Google (GOOG) has acquired Boston Dynamics, a developer of advanced robots and related software for the U.S. military. The NYT observes Boston, whose robots rely on proprietary algorithms and sensor-based controls to handle movement, has "gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and ... run faster than the fastest humans."
- Boston's products include Atlas, a humanoid robot able to handle difficult terrain; Cheetah, declared by the company to be "the fastest legged robot in the world (top speed above 29 mph); and BigDog, a giant rough-terrain robot that can climb 35-degree slopes and has starred in a YouTube video that has received 15M+ views.
- Boston is Google's eighth 2013 robotics acquisition. The NYT recently reported a Google unit headed by ex-Android chief Andy Rubin is looking to create "a new generation of robots," and that the Web giant is eying manufacturing and retail robotics applications. Amazon is clearly showing an interest in the latter.
- Google's latest acquisition could end up having implications for iRobot (IRBT), which sold $33.7M worth of defense/security robots over the first nine months of 2013 (-39% Y/Y).
Dec. 4, 2013, 9:28 AM
- The NYT reports Google (GOOG) has quietly acquired seven companies over the last six months in an attempt to "create a new generation of robots." Former Android chief Andy Rubin, reassigned earlier this year to an unspecified role, is spearheading the effort.
- Google is tight-lipped about its plans, but sources say manufacturing and retail applications are being eyed. The NYT observes Larry Page is a proponent of the idea that "technology should be deployed wherever possible to free humans from drudgery and repetitive tasks." The report comes shortly after Amazon made waves with its drone delivery announcement.
- AllThingsD reports the launch of YouTube's anticipated subscription music service has been pushed back to 2014, with a Q1 launch possible. Though YouTube has the licenses it needs to launch, the online video giant is said to be unsatisfied with the current state of the product.
- While music subscription services are nearly a dime a dozen at this point, YouTube's huge base and ability to integrate videos (both official and user-generated) could make it a serious challenger to leaders such as Spotify.
- Fresh off giving Chrome apps the ability to work in local/offline mode on PCs, Google is set to release a toolkit that allows developers to bring Chrome apps to Android/iOS. Creating a larger developer ecosystem for Chrome apps is key to growing Chrome OS' relatively small PC market share.
Oct. 22, 2013, 2:47 PM
- Google (GOOG +0.2%) has acquired FlexyCore, a French developer of software for OEMs/carriers (known as droidBooster) that optimizes/improves Android hardware performance. A local paper reports the purchase price was $23.1M.
- Developers have often argued Android's use of a virtual machine (Dalvik) to translate Java code hurts its CPU resource efficiency relative to iOS, which in turn hurts battery life. FlexyCore could help address this issue.
- Other recent Google mobile acquisitions: Flutter, Bump, Wavii, Behavio, Waze
Oct. 5, 2013, 12:25 PM
- Blackberry (BBRY) is in talks with Cisco Systems (CSCO), Google (GOOG), and SAP (SAP) about selling itself whole or piecemeal according to "several sources," Reuters reports.
- The strategic buyer route provides an alternative to Fairfax's $9/share bid (~$4.7B), which some speculate has little chance of securing financing. P-E firm Cerberus has also expressed interest in the ailing company.
- According to sources, potential corporate buyers have been "especially interested in BlackBerry's secure server network and patent portfolio, although doubts about the assets' value remains an issue." Analysts believe Blackberry's security-focused messaging system could be worth $3B-$4.5B, and its patent trove $2B-$3B. However, a company filing disclosed that the value of its patent portfolio and licensing agreements could halve in the next 18 months.
- TechCrunch speculates that "an enterprise-focused bidder — such as SAP or Cisco — might make the best fit for BlackBerry’s security-focused messaging handset business at this point, with the consumer smartphone marketplace now primarily centred on Android and iOS."
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