May. 23, 2014, 10:09 AM
- TechCrunch reports Google (GOOG - unchanged) is close to buying satellite imagery startup Skybox Imaging; a source estimates the price is around $1B.
- The Information reported of Google's interest in Skybox in April. Aside from providing high-res imagery that could bolster Google Maps/Earth, Skybox provides related analytics services aimed at enterprises/institutions.
- TechCrunch observes Skybox currently relies on just one satellite, and needs more funding as it gets set to launch a second one in June. The company recently placed an order for 13 small satellites.
- DigitalGlobe (DGI +0.3%), which sold off when The Information's report came out, is taking the TechCrunch report in stride. The company is a major imagery supplier for Maps/Earth.
- Separately, the WSJ reports Google's Project Tango, launched as an effort to create Android phones able to track motion and provide 3D visual maps of one's surroundings, now extends to tablets.
- A 7" prototype tablet sporting "two back cameras, infrared depth sensors and advanced software that can capture precise [3D] images of objects" is said to be on tap. There's a good chance OmniVision (OVTI +1.1%), already a Tango partner, is the image sensor supplier.
May. 21, 2014, 3:19 AM
- Google (GOOG, GOOGL) needs $20-30B of its foreign earnings to finance acquisitions, which is why it had parked $35B abroad as at the end of March.
- The search giant also plans to use $2-4B for capex and $12-14B for an R&D cost-sharing agreement.
- Google made the disclosures in a December letter to regulators that it published yesterday. The letter comes amid controversy about how U.S. corporations keep large funds overseas in order to avoid U.S. taxes.
- In addition, Google revealed that it passed on a $4-5B acquisition deal for a foreign company in late 2013, although it didn't provide the name of the target.
May. 18, 2014, 9:22 PM
- Variety reports Google (GOOG), via YouTube, has reached a deal to buy Twitch, a site that lets users live-stream their PC/Xbox/PlayStation gameplay, for over $1B in cash. But the WSJ reports Google's talks with Twitch are still "at an early stage;" the paper provides no acquisition price.
- Twitch claims 45M+ monthly users, including over 1M who upload/stream videos, sometimes for widely-watched competitive events. The company claims its broadcaster count tripled in 2013, and that its average user watches 95 minutes/day.
- Twitch also has a partner network of 4K+ content providers - it typically shares ad revenue with them - and integration deals with various game developers. Its user base skews heavily towards the 18-34 demographic whose love of online video has drawn the attention of advertisers.
- Variety's sources state YouTube (1B+ MAUs) is prepping for a regulatory challenge to the Twitch deal. The online video giant is no stranger to hosting live game broadcasts, but its market share is well below Twitch's.
- The reports come as top YouTube content providers such as Maker Studios and Fullscreen receive M&A interest from media giants.
- Update: The Verge reports Google is close to a $1B deal for Twitch, and that it beat out Microsoft and other would-be suitors.
May. 16, 2014, 4:44 PM
- Google (GOOG +0.1%) has bought Quest Visual, maker of an iOS app (Word Lens) that analyzes/translates text picked up by a device's camera, and places the translated text within a revised image.
- Google, which has shown a keen interest in applying A.I./machine learning to a variety of applications, plans to integrate Word Lens' technology with Google Translate. The acquisition follows the launch of Project Tango, an effort to enable Android phones that can create visual maps of a user's surroundings.
- Separately, Google has hired Ivy Ross, formerly a marketing exec for several retailers, to head its Glass unit.
- Ross, who has also worked at eyewear firms Bausch & Lomb and Outlook, arrives as Glass deals with some well-known image issues ahead of its commercial launch. The $1,500 Explorer Edition of Glass just became available to the general public.
May. 7, 2014, 3:55 PM
- Google (GOOG -1.4%) has bought Stackdriver, a developer of software that monitors the performance and reliability of apps running on cloud infrastructure/app platforms.
- Google naturally plans to offer Stackdriver's tools to developers leveraging its own cloud infrastructure and app development platforms, which received a big revamp in March. The acquisition follows the 2013 purchase of Web app server developer Talaria.
- The Web giant has also bought Appetas, a startup that offers restaurants tools for quickly building mobile-friendly sites and accepting reservations/orders through them. Appetas will be shutting down its service as its team joins Google, which has invested plenty in its local ad/content offerings.
- The purchases follow recent deals to acquire ad measurement tech provider Adometry and online retail analytics software firm Rangespan. Shares are lower on a down day for tech, but are faring better than those of many Internet peers.
May. 6, 2014, 12:49 PM
- Google (GOOG -1.2%) has bought Adometry, developer of an online ad measurement platform (known as Attribute) that takes in data from over a dozen different sources (inc. online, offline, and mobile channels) to figure out whether an ad was viewed, and whether it led to a sale.
- Adometry runs algorithms over massive datasets to determine which online/offline channels (if any) deserve credit for producing a conversion. The startup claims the ability of its algorithms to "work at the most granular level" yields unmatched accuracy.
- Google has been stepping up its efforts lately to improve ad measurement, with the goals of improving ad prices and compelling marketers to direct more of their budgets to online channels. The company is already running a pilot program to figure out the extent to which search ad sales drive offline purchases, and has partnered with Nielsen to develop TV-like ratings tools for YouTube.
- The Adometry deal shortly follows the purchase of Rangespan, a provider of analytics software that helps online retailers gauge product demand and make inventory decisions. Google is expected to use Rangespan to help product listing ad (PLA) clients get more bang for their buck.
Apr. 21, 2014, 9:27 AM
- The WSJ reports mobile payments upstart Square, reported two months ago to have indefinitely postponed its IPO, has "discussed a possible sale to several deeper-pocketed rivals."
- The paper adds Google (GOOG) discussed buying Square this year, though it's not clear if talks are continuing. Apple and PayPal are said to have held informal talks that never progressed.
- Re/code and The Information previously reported Google has shown interest in Square, which processed over $20B worth of transactions last year (largely through its mobile card readers and related apps) and could provide Google with valuable data on offline purchase activity and ad effectiveness (previous). Google's own mobile/offline payments efforts haven't lived up to expectations.
- The WSJ's sources state Square had 2013 revenue of $550M, but only with a gross margin of 21% (down from 2012's 27%) after backing out processor payments and other fees. That led net loss to total ~$100M.
- Square has been hatching plans to up-sell merchants on value-added software and services, but it remains very dependent on transactions for now. The company has been valued at $5B in private share sales, but public investors might now assign a lower valuation.
Apr. 14, 2014, 2:28 PM
- Titan Aerospace, once rumored to be in Facebook's crosshairs, has been acquired by Google (GOOG +0.8%).
- The Information previously reported of Google's interest in Titan. The Web giant plans to have Titan's drones (the Solara 50 and Solara 60) complement Project Loon, which aims to provide 3G-or-faster Web access via hot-air balloons to areas lacking connectivity. Google might also have Titan support its Makani unit, which is working on airborne wind turbines.
- Facebook, for its part, is looking to connect offline regions with the help of its Connectivity Lab and recently-acquired U.K. drone startup Ascenta.
- Titan's 20-employee team will remain at its New Mexico HQ. In addition to providing voice/data services, Titan asserts its drones will be able to collect high-res imagery and sport atmospheric sensors (possibly of value for Google Maps). It expects individual drones to support up to 1Gbps of bandwidth.
- UAV maker AeroVironment (AVAV +0.7%) has turned positive on the news.
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
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