Google-Apple in Bidding War for Boku?

Back when Apple wanted to buy AdMob for around $250 million, Google came along and spent over $700 million (mostly in stock) to keep the company away from Cupertino. Apple went on to buy Quattro Wireless and create iAd, which did Google-AdMob (and others) a big favor by adding additional credibility to the mobile display market. Now the two companies may be at it again.

Yesterday TechCrunch reported that both companies are interested in payments vendor Boku:

Both Apple and Google are engaged in conversations with mobile payments startup BOKU about a potential acquisition or a wide-reaching partnership at the very least, we’ve heard from people familiar with the talks, which are ongoing.

Google, which has to date largely botched the consumer opportunity with its payments platform Checkout, needs a payments company more than Apple. Google may also be motivated to keep Boku away from Apple for fear of falling further behind in this arena. 

Accordingly, regardless of whether its Boku, Zong or somebody else, Google will make a mobile payments acquisition in the next six months (or earlier). I'm not basing this on any tip or other inside information but on logic. Mobile payments are too important for Google to sit on the sidelines.

It also needs a better in-house payments solution for the Android market, which has badly lagged in paid app sales. Developers have been unhappy accordingly; Google needs to make/keep them happy. 

Apple has more options when it comes to payments and could do something in house. (NFC is reportedly coming to iPhone 5.) But it may also buy a mobile payments company as a layer on top of its installed base of iTunes credit cards. Apple previously reported that it has more than 100 million iTunes users with credit cards on file.

Regardless of who buys whom, between the two companies Apple is the one that could more quickly mainstream mobile payments than Google. 

See related posts: