FAQ: Why did Google buy these companies?

What Google's 2012 acquisitions say about the company's long-term plans.

Google's six major acquisitions in 2012 offer potential indications of where the search giant's priorities lie. Why Google's interest? Here's a rundown:

The 6 companies Google has bought in 2012 (so far)

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MILK: The idea here seems to have been less about buying up the company and more about getting Digg creator Kevin Rose on the team. Facebook's interest in Milk for similar reasons sparked a bidding war, but Google won out, adding Rose - and his experience as one of the early luminaries of the social web - to the Google Plus team.

TXVIA: Google Wallet's launch in 2011 was hyped as an important step in the popularization of NFC-based payment technology, but the system has struggled to gain users. The purchase of TXVIA - with its advanced secure payment technology and experience in the field of pre-paid debit cards - is easy to read as a step toward making a more serious push to bring Google Wallet into the mainstream.

MEEBO: Although Meebo didn't have a known Silicon Valley heavyweight like Kevin Rose in charge like Milk, the company's long-standing experience with social media was still too tempting for Google to pass up. As with Milk, Google wasted little time in shutting down most Meebo services and putting the team to work on Google Plus.

QUICKOFFICE: This was a fairly straightforward bid to add more functionality and flexibility to Google Apps. Google engineering director Alan Warren said at the time that "Quickoffice has an established track record of enabling seamless interoperability with popular file formats, and we'll be working on bringing their powerful technology to our Apps product suite," which seems like a pretty clear declaration that the company is trying to make it easier for Microsoft Office-based shops to transition to their products.

SPARROW: Google's launch of an official Gmail app for iOS, in November 2011, probably wasn't a particular highlight for the Gmail team - the app was simply too buggy to function. It's improved since, however, and the purchase of Sparrow highlights Google's determination to make Gmail a cross-platform success.

WILDFIRE: The Wildfire deal makes it easy to divide Google's six 2012 acquisitions into two camps of three - TxVia, QuickOffice and Sparrow were all fixes for comparatively minor parts of Google's ecosystem, and Milk, Meebo and Wildfire are all aimed at bolstering Google Plus. Wildfire, in particular, looks like an attempt to directly improve advertising revenue, given that company's rare success in monetizing social media.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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