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Apple's Evolving Corporate Acquisition Strategy Examined

Bloomberg takes a look at Apple's spate of corporate acquisitions over the past six months, which has seen the company reverse a long-standing policy of making very infrequent deals with its recent purchases of Quattro Wireless, Lala Media, Intrinsity, and Siri. In particular, the report points to the growing rivalry between Apple and Google, stoked in large part on the acquisitions front by Google reportedly swooping in to snatch mobile advertising firm AdMob just as Apple was looking to finalize a deal to do so.

"The pace has really picked up, there seems to be a strategic shift," said Charlie Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Co. in New York. "It looks like there's an acquisition frenzy going on between Google and Apple in the sense that there's an increasing urgency on Apple's part to stay even if not ahead of Google in the phone space and apps space.

One interesting tidbit included in the report is evidence that Apple has sometimes moved very quickly when looking to make an acquisition, even giving targets as little as three hours to agree to a deal.

To avoid publicity and possible rival bids, Apple in some cases has offered a target only a three-hour period in which to accept the terms of a sale, according to one executive with knowledge of the situation.

Apple's increased interest in corporate acquisitions was noted earlier this year, with the company's hiring of its first dedicated mergers and acquisitions specialist last year possibly signaling the priority shift.

"They learned a good lesson with AdMob" because they had to settle for "second-fiddle Quattro," said Brian Marshall, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech in San Francisco. "They've got the resources. They have the team to do acquisitions now. It's a technology land grab right now."

Apple has traditionally shied away from such acquisitions, preferring to develop its technology in-house with its own culture and only occasionally engaging in purchases of much smaller companies. Even then, Apple has been tight-lipped about its plans for those companies, sometimes pursuing specific technologies or intellectual property and other times primarily looking to acquire talented individuals for its own projects.