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."
Oct. 3, 2013, 1:16 AM
- Google (GOOG) has acquired Flutter, a developer of hand gesture recognition software. TechCrunch reports the purchase price was around $40M.
- Flutter uses machine vision algorithms to analyze hand gestures picked up by webcams. The company offers a somewhat popular Mac OS app that can be used to control media apps/services such as iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, and Pandora. Google is tight-lipped regarding what applications - PC, mobile, or otherwise - Flutter's technology and engineering team will be applied towards.
- Interest in gesture recognition has been growing lately: this year has seen Intel acquire gesture recognition tech developer Omek, startup Leap Motion launch a PC motion sensor to much fanfare (but mixed reviews), Samsung provide a bit of gesture recognition support for the Galaxy S4 (i.e. Air Gesture), and Microsoft unveil a 2nd-gen Kinect (set to ship with the Xbox One) with better motion-sensing abilities than the original.
Sep. 19, 2013, 5:47 PM
- Google (GOOG) is making popular mobile productivity suite Quickoffice free to all iOS/Android users. Until now, Quickoffice was only free to those subscribing to Google Apps for Business (costs $50-$120/user/year).
- Google claims it's looking to better support Google Apps users collaborating with workers who "haven't gone Google yet" (of which there are many). But its move might also have something to do with Apple's decision to make its iWork suite free to buyers of new iOS hardware.
- Microsoft unveiled Office iPhone/Android apps earlier in 2013, but they're only available to Office 365 subs. The company has held off on creating iPad Office apps in favor of steering users towards its Office Web Apps.
- Dan Primack reports Google has "acqui-hired" part of VC firm and "digital innovation lab" Hattery. The report comes at a time when Google's VC arm (Google Ventures) has been ramping its investment activity.
Sep. 19, 2013, 1:23 PM
- Google (GOOG -0.5%) has provided U.K. regulators reviewing its acquisition of popular crowdsourced traffic/POI app Waze a list of proposed remedies meant to address concerns the deal will hurt rivals in an online/mobile mapping market Google already towers over.
- Among other things, Google promises Waze will remain an independent business with a separate IT infrastructure, and will honor its existing deals with third parties. The Web giant also promises no business secrets or IP shall be transferred between Waze and Google proper, save for unique circumstances.
- However, there's no promise not to integrate Waze's data with Google Maps; Google began doing this last month.
- The FTC is conducting its own investigation of the acquisition.
- Separately, an iPhone Google Wallet app has hit the App Store a couple days after Google gave Wallet a massive overhaul that makes it available to a far larger portion of Android users.
- Since no iOS device has an NFC chip, the iPhone Wallet app doesn't support NFC-based mobile payments (they haven't been too popular anyway). But it does support the money-transfer, loyalty card, and discount/coupon features recently added to the Android app; the features make the iPhone app a direct rival to Apple's Passbook.
Sep. 16, 2013, 12:35 PM
- Bump, a developer of Android/iOS apps that allow users to share contact info, photos, and other files by bumping their phones together, announces it has been acquired by Google (GOOG).
- Bump, which also offers a shared photo album app called Flock, boasts its file-sharing apps have been downloaded over 100M times. The company recently added support for PC/mobile file-sharing and syncing.
- Look for Google to integrate Bump's core feature set with future Android releases, and perhaps also with Gmail, Google+, and Google Drive.
- Other Google mobile app acquisitions: Waze, Snapseed, Quickoffice
- Update: AllThingsD reports the purchase price was "at least $30 million, and as much as $60 million."
Jul. 22, 2013, 7:32 AMGoogle (GOOG) has agreed to acquire a 6.3% holding in a subsidiary of Taiwanese chip company Himax Technologies (HIMX) in order to help finance the development of display technology for head-mounted devices such as Google Glass. Google has an option to increase its stake to 14.8% within a year. Financial details weren't disclosed. Intel Capital is an existing investor in the unit. Himax shares surge 31%. (PR) | 4 Comments
Jun. 22, 2013, 3:40 PMThe FTC plans to review Google's (GOOG) acquisition of Waze. Though Google used an exemption to avoid providing the FTC and DOJ a Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust filing, a review isn't surprising, given Google's dominant online/mobile maps position and a general belief it's buying Waze in part to keep its increasingly accurate crowdsourced traffic/point-of-interest data out of Apple and Facebook's hands. "Lawyers familiar with government antitrust investigations" tell the WSJ the FTC may have asked Google not to integrate Waze's data with Google Maps until its review is finished. (more on Waze) | 1 Comment
Jun. 19, 2013, 9:16 AMGoogle (GOOG) is open to forging alliances with P-E firms to make acquisitions, says M&A chief Don Harrison, who hints additional major deals are being considered in the wake of Waze. Harrison also expounds on Google's broader M&A strategy: "We apply something called the toothbrush test ... Is this something people use once or twice a day and does it solve a problem?" Meanwhile, law prof. Steven Davidoff reports Google skipped providing an antitrust review filing for Waze to the DOJ and FTC by using an exemption for foreign companies with less than $60.9M in U.S. sales/assets. | Comment!
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