Having recently purchased both Nest and AI startup DeepMind, Google is currently on a high tech spending spree. Even Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson has claimed that the search giant’s recent acquisitions have helped it take the lead over Apple when it comes to innovation in 2014.
But Apple is also putting its $159 billion worth of cash and investments to good use by carrying out its fair share of acquisitions.
Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California (image taken by Benjamin Feenstra)
It was widely reported in January that Apple was in talks to buy Waze, an Israeli startup with a hugely popular maps app. Waze was rumored to be asking Apple for $750 million. The same outlet that broke the acquisition rumor quickly backpedaled and said no such deal was taking place. Google ended up buying Waze in June for $1 billion.
And so goes the buyout game in Silicon Valley, a power play where tech giants like Apple and Google court hot startups with the hopes of adding them to their war chests.
Apple had its biggest year ever for acquisitions in 2013, with a record 15 smaller companies joining the fold. A dozen of them have now been publicly disclosed.
For an entity as secretive as Apple, examining the companies it buys is one of the only ways to peek into its future plans. When AuthenTec, a company that specialized in fingerprint readers and identification software, was purchased in July 2012, speculation immediately followed. What did Apple want with fingerprint sensors? The answer ended up being obvious, and the technology debuted in Touch ID in September 2013.
Often the outcome of an Apple acquisition isn’t so immediately apparent.
Historically, Apple acquires far fewer companies than its competitors. But the line is starting to blur. Google publicly bought three times as many companies as Apple in 2012 and not even twice as many in 2013. Apple bought more companies than Microsoft in 2013.
So what does all of this say about Apple’s future?
Apple has bought a personal assistant iPhone app called Cue for between $40 and $60 million, according to a report from TechCrunch. Originally called Greplin in the App Store, Cue specialized in using data from multiple social networks and users accounts to create a daily agenda. Cue recently pulled its app saying “the Cue service is no longer available.”
Cue was doing Google Now-like contextual notifications before Now and Siri were introduced. The purchase of Cue probably has something to do with enhancing the contextual awareness of the iOS calendar and Siri itself.
Eddie Cue, who helped create iTunes and the App Store, now will lead Apple’s push into online ads and iCloud, the tech giant announced Thursday. As senior vice president of Internet Software & Services, Cue reports directly to Tim Cook, who assumed the CEO post following Steve Jobs’ exit.