Maureen Farell has a list of all the companies that Apple acquired in 2013 (that we know about). Cue is the most interesting one to me – I used to be a Greplin user before it became Cue and those guys knew how to contextualize data from various sources, which would be great for Siri and Notification Center's Today view. The lack of European location startups is curious.
Plex Gets iOS 7 Update
My Must-Have iPad Apps, 2013 Edition
Reeder 2.1 Released with Themes, Reading List Support, Fixes
Tweetbot 3.2 Brings Night Theme, Account Reordering and Quick Switching
The Wall Street Journal:
Apple Inc. has acquired social-media analytics firm Topsy Labs Inc. for more than $200 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
Of all the acquisitions that Apple did in 2013, this is one of the most interesting ones to me. Topsy was capable of analyzing trends in tweets and it was one of the few official Twitter partners with access to the full Twitter firehose (including all tweets starting from 2006).
There are many possibilities opened by this kind of access and technology. At TechCrunch, Matthew Panzarino imagines that Topsy's technology could be useful to improve Twitter search tools built into Siri:
There is also a slim possibility that Apple may want to use Topsy's stored trends data and firehose access to improve Siri search. It could provide Siri with a reliable way to present people with trending topics and search results according to Twitter when queried.
As Panzarino also speculates, however, I believe that there's real potential in Twitter analysis algorithms used to augment iTunes and App Store discovery for media, and especially apps. Imagine being able to determine in (almost) real-time the kind of buzz that an app is getting by analyzing tweets sent by humans (not bots or websites) about a new app release. I've written about this before, and smaller third-party companies have already tried to provide their own layer of App Store discovery tools by triangulating signals from App Store charts, online reviews, and social networks.
And, of course, there's the TV rumor: Twitter has become the de-facto destination for real-time TV commentary by millions of watchers, with the company going as far as surveying a subset of users about live TV viewing habits in their latest iOS app update. Topsy's firehose access and algorithms could have endless potential for Apple's rumored television plans.
As John Gruber notes, it is a curious acquisition. Apple may have bought Topsy for its team or technology or patents, but the fact that Topsy was highly specialized in Twitter tools and that Apple already has native Twitter integration in iOS and OS X creates several interesting scenarios. Although, as we've seen with the Chomp acquisition, this kind of changes can take a long time.
As noted by Italian website Fanpage [Google Translation] and reported by TechCrunch, Apple has filed documentations with Italian authorities to acquire Italian company Redmatica. Based in Correggio, Italy, Redmatica specializes in “digital audio workstation” software — notably, the company is well known for Mac audio editing and mixing editors such as KeyMap Pro, AutoSampler, and ProManager. Based on Apple technologies such as CoreAnimation, Redmatica’s software integrates with popular desktop editors and tools such as Logic, Reason, MainStage, and even GarageBand for iPad.
The acquisition of “DAW” (Digital Audio Workstation) assets by Redmatica has been reported by Italian regulator AGCOM in an official document available here. The document notes how Redmatica’s worldwide revenue in 2011 has been under €1 million, with, surprisingly, no revenue (“fatturato”) coming from Italy. Apple, on the other hand, reported, according to the document, approximately €77,6 billion revenue worldwide in the fiscal year 2011 (2010/2011 as noted in the document), €19.9 billion in the European Union, and “over €1 billion” in Italy alone.
As for the DAW software, the AGCOM filing notes how Redmatica holds a share less than 1%, while Apple holds around 10/15% among “several and qualified competitors”. The document explains how DAW software may fall under the category of “business software”, as DAW applications allow for recording, editing, mixing, and playback of digital music, and are typically used by sound professionals, but also “prosumers” (“expert amateur users” in the document), musicians, and DJs.
The AGCOM document doesn’t say Apple has acquired Redmatica. Rather, provided a description of both companies, the nature of the acquisition, and the aforementioned numbers and stats, the filing goes on to note how Apple isn’t a big player in the area of DAW software, and thus the acquisition should be safe for competition. In the document, in fact, Italian law n. 287/90 (art. 16, comma 4) is mentioned as a possible factor that could prevent Apple from acquiring the company. Specifically, law n. 287/90 (art. 16, comma 4) notes how, in case of competitive disadvantages (explained in art. 6), authorities may begin an investigation (detailed in art. 14) for a proposed acquisition or merger (“operazione di concentrazione”).
The AGCOM document ends noting how AGCOM deliberated an investigation won’t be necessary; AGCOM’s conclusions have been forwarded to Apple, Redmatica, and the Italian Minister of Economic Development of Infrastructure and Transport. It is safe to assume that, considering AGCOM’s position, the acquisition will be given the final go-ahead by Italian authorities soon. It is obviously unclear how much Apple is willing to spend to acquire Redmatica’s assets, or how Apple plans to integrate its software in its existing suite of digital audio applications.
We have reached both Apple and Redmatica for comment, and we’ll update this story with more details when available.
At the Evernote Trunk Conference that’s currently going on in San Francisco, Evernote CEO Phil Libin announced the company has acquired popular image sharing service Skitch. Skitch is a drawing tool for OS X that allows users to make quick edits and leave annotations on screenshots to share online with their friends and colleagues. The Mac app has got direct Twitter integration, it supports drag & drop and it can instantly send screenshots on to the web that anyone will be able to see with a browser. We had a review of Skitch for Mac last year, although the app has been improved a lot since then and given a new price point on the Mac App Store.
Following this acquisition, the price is the first thing that will change for Skitch. As part of Evernote, Skitch will be available for free on the Mac App Store, with no ads and no trials; existing Skitch users will be able to keep using the service with their accounts, though new users will get the possibility of signing up using their Evernote credentials. Evernote is promising “tighter integration between Evernote and Skitch” to “easily draw, ink, grab screenshots, annotate and share your favorite memories” — admittedly, as a long-time Evernote user, being able to edit and annotate images in a notebook has always been something I wished Evernote would do besides rich text editing and tagging. All Things Digital is also reporting an Android app will be launched soon, with Skitch for iOS and Windows to follow.
We were drawn to Skitch (har har) for one simple reason: we love and use their product with Evernote. For years, one of our most requested feature areas has been related to improved handling of images and annotation capabilities. Our users take and share millions of photos and screenshots already, but the experience isn’t as good as it could be. We debated about whether to add the improved functionality into Evernote or build a separate app to handle it. Finally, we decided to do both. Thanks to Skitch, we will.
According to Evernote, the engineers at the two companies will be working closely in the coming months to deeply integrate Skitch and Evernote with each other, as right now the only way to let the apps communicate on a Mac is by annotating an image in Skitch, and manually drag it into Evernote. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the app gained a feature to push annotations to Evernote’s cloud to avoid drag & drop — considering the app is coming to mobile devices, this has been certainly considered by the Evernote team. At the moment of writing this Skitch is still a paid app on the Mac App Store, so check back for changes soon to download it for free. We’re looking forward to whatever the Evernote team has in store for Skitch integration in their products — in the meantime, you can read the full announcement here.
Update: Skitch is now free on the Mac App Store.
It was only last February that Push Pop Press started teasing a brand new kind of digital books for the iPhone and iPad, promising to revolutionize the way users interact with text, images, and video on a multi-touch screen. Started by former Apple employees, Push Pop Press built a unique publishing platform and physics engine that was best demonstrated in Our Choice, Al Gore’s book ported over to Push Pop Press’ platform, released on the iPhone and iPad and winner of an Apple Design Award in June.
With an update on their website, Push Pop Press has announced that they’ve been acquired by Facebook. It’s unclear how the technology will be integrated into the “world’s largest book”, but the blog post says “although Facebook isn’t planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories”. Push Pop Press’ first book Our Choice will remain available for sale with profits donated to The Climate Reality Project; future books planned with Push Pop Press’ closed beta won’t be published following this acquisition.
Now we’re taking our publishing technology and everything we’ve learned and are setting off to help design the world’s largest book, Facebook.
TechCrunch also reports a statement from Facebook:
We’re thrilled to confirm that we’ve acquired Push Pop Press, a startup whose groundbreaking software changes the way people publish and consume digital content. We can’t wait for co-founders Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris to get started, and for some of the technology, ideas and inspiration behind Push Pop Press to become part of how millions of people connect and share with each other on Facebook.
You can read our original review of Push Pop Press’ Our Choice here. Whilst Facebook apparently has no plans to enter the publishing market, Push Pop Press’ interaction methods and innovative engine might be a good fit for Facebook’s iPhone and upcoming iPad app.
After the acquisition of Wonderland Software late in April, gaming giant Zynga (you might remember these folks for Farmville, among other things) announced they hired key contributors of the cocos2d for iPhone framework Ricardo Quesada and Rolando Abarca. The two developers will join Zynga’s team while still maintaining cocos2d for iPhone community and official website — which the company did not acquire. Cocos2d for iPhone, a framework for creating “2D games, demos, and other graphical/interactive applications” used by hundreds of developers including Atari, ngmoco and Zynga itself, is an open-source project that currently supports the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Mac. Quesada and Abarca will continue supporting and contributing to cocos2d for iPhone; the “talent acquisition” from Zynga is clearly aimed at enhancing the company’s portfolio in the development field, which ranges from 2D and 3D games to advanced HTML and social experiences. Zynga has a pretty rich catalog of mobile games, too.
Zynga has long been an advocate of the open source community and we are excited to have Ricardo and Rolando continue to support and contribute to cocos2d for iPhone while in their new roles at Zynga. Games and applications will continue to operate on cocos2d for iPhone as they always have. Zynga did not acquire the community site, cocos2d-iphone.org, which will continue to be managed separately by Ricardo along with the other cocos2d for iPhone administrators. We look forward to advancing the cocos2d for iPhone open source project alongside the cocos2d for iPhone developer community.
At this point, we can’t tell how Zynga will use the talent of cocos2d for iPhone’s contributors to enrich their gaming experiences with complex physics engines and integration with other third-party graphic libraries. What’s for sure is that Zynga doesn’t have a problem in opening its wallet to purchase assets and other smaller companies, considering today’s talent and partial asset acquisition is the 13th one in the last 12 months.
A TechCrunch post from late yesterday suggests that Apple and voice recognition company Nuance have been negotiating a deal for months following Apple’s acquisition of Siri. Siri, which Apple acquired last April, developed an iPhone app that was marketed as a “virtual personal assistant” and would listen to audible questions from a user (such as “where can I find parking around here”), and would respond with an answer.
In a previous report, TechCrunch said that they believed the acquisition of Siri would lead to iOS 5 having “assistance technology [that] is said to be deeply integrated into the OS for all the different services offered.” However, Apple has had to renegotiate deals with all the partners of Siri since it acquired them and apparently the one hold out is Nuance. According to TechCrunch’s sources, the negotiations between Apple could be as big as an acquisition or just a partnership.
Apparently an acquisition is unlikely at this stage, likely for a number of reasons mainly surrounding the cost; Nuance is a public company valued at over $6 billion, furthermore much of that value is because of various licensing deals that would likely be stopped if Apple bought Nuance. The other alternative is that Apple partners Nuance and licenses the voice recognition technology; and at this stage it is the more likely option according to TechCrunch’s sources. The hold up is apparently because of Nuance CEO Paul Ricci being a “really hard bargainer”, going as hard as Steve Jobs would in the negotiations and resulting in a standoff between the two companies.
Apple does have alternatives to dealing with Nuance, it could build its own service but this would be fraught with legal issues (Nuance holds many patents) and would take time (that Apple may not want to spend) or it could go with Google, but given the current smartphone battle this seems unlikely. Consequently it seems unlikely that Apple has any good alternative here, particularly given how well the Nuance voice recognition technology works.
With with WWDC rapidly approaching, and iOS 5 fairly likely to make some kind of appearance, one would presume that Apple would be at this stage rushing to finalise a deal with Nuance, particularly if it is a major cornerstone of the iOS 5 experience. One final point made by MG Siegler in the article is that;
And the truth is that Nuance needs Apple too. Not only are they also threatened by Google, but Nuance technology is simply not very meaningful without apps that utilize it like Siri. And many of those apps are appearing guess where: iOS.
Looks like iOS game company acquisitions are the new “Google has acquired”: in an unexpected turn of events, popular game studio Firemint (creators of award-winning iOS titles such as Flight Control or Real Racing) has acquired the company behind Puzzle Quest, the Infinite Interactive team. Both companies are based in Australia, and a press release went live last night to announce the deal and the fact that “Firemint is welcoming Steve Fawkner”, founder of Infinite Interactive in 1989. As you can see in the graphics above, the companies are already joking about the games that will come as a result of this acquisition, whether or not we’ll be able to put our hands on “Puzzle Control” or “Flight Quest”.
A curious detail is hidden in the press release (which we’ve embedded below): apparently, Firemint’s Rob Murray and Steve Fawkner are long-time friends, and Fawkner showed Murray an early prototype of Puzzle Quest in 2003, receiving feedback from him. Now, he will be able to get feedback on a daily basis and who knows — maybe we are really going to see a more RPG-oriented Real Racing or puzzles in Flight Control. The idea sounds awful, I know, but game designers can usually make awful ideas happen. (more…)
Early in November we reported Xmarks, which had been struggling trying to find a business model to keep its password and bookmark synchronization service free, found a “new owner” and that more details would be made available soon.
Enter LastPass, based in Vienna, Va., whose CEO Joe Siegrist said in an interview that he wanted to help keep the service operating and provide it with an ongoing business model.
“They had a large dedicated audience, but their free offering and advertising model was not working,” he said. “We really want to figure something out that could keep it going.”
Siegrist said LastPass offered a good free service, but relied on a small group of users who pay to upgrade to a premium offering.
Xmarks also received pledges from almost 30,000 who, through an online form, confirmed they were willing to pay $10 or $20 to keep Xmarks running. It is unclear whether this acquisition will cause a rebranding of the Xmarks product or not.