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Yahoo Opens Wallet Again, Buys Two Start-Ups

Yahoo Opens Wallet Again, Buys Two Start-Ups
By Barry Levine

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Yahoo-watchers are wondering if this string of purchases actually adds up to a coherent strategy, or if CEO Marissa Mayer is simply picking up inexpensive companies (except for Tumblr) in order to see if any of them have that lightning-in-a-bottle. Some have suggested that several of the purchases, such as Summly or Rondee, were made primarily to acquire engineering talent.
 



Yahoo has the buying bug again. On Wednesday, the venerable Net company scooped up two more start-ups, mobile photo app provider GhostBird and enterprise conference calling service Rondee.

While the prices for these new acquisitions were not released, they were undoubtedly cheaper than the $1.1 billion that it cost Yahoo to make a commitment to buy Tumblr in May. Yahoo has said that GhostBird's iOS-based photo apps, KitCam and PhotoForge2, will be integrated into Flickr, and Rondee has posted on its site that its conferencing service will be used to help small businesses.

The KitCam app featured filters for mobile device picture-taking that created looks resembling different "lenses" and "film stocks," and it provided manual control of exposure, white balance and other parameters. PhotoForge allowed image resizing, metadata editing, level settings and other post-capture modifications.

Buy and Shut Down

The GhostBird acquisition was announced via a Twitter tweet on Wednesday: "Today we acquired @GhostBirdSoft for @Flickr. Get ready to see your mobile photos in a whole new light!" This was accompanied by a link to a statement on the GhostBird home page. Flickr has undergone a recent redesign of its home page, and has launched new apps for Android and iOS devices. Adding a new editing app will help boost Yahoo's efforts to build a greater presence in the mobile space and could suggest that more changes are under way for Flickr.

Both companies will discontinue their current operations, with Rondee allowing current customers to use its service through July 12 and obtain data from previous uses of its service through August 12. GhostBird's app is no longer available on the Apple App Store, although current customers can continue using the software.

Except for Tumblr, Yahoo seems to be following a buy-and-shutdown pattern. It similarly purchased and then shuttered, for instance, news app Snip.It, video chat broadcasting app provider OnTheAir, news aggregator app Summly, and social recommender Stamped.

'Smaller-Scale Acquisitions'

CEO Marissa Mayer said in a conference call in October of last year that her strategy is to acquire companies that will help Yahoo build capability in social apps, smartphones and tablets. She added that Yahoo was "looking for smaller-scale acquisitions that align well overall with our businesses."

Other companies purchased by Yahoo since Mayer became CEO include Alike, which developed an app to recommend favorite locations, Jybe, a social recommendation engine, Astrid, which had a social to-do app, GoPollGo, a polling app, MileWise for handling airline miles and credit card points, and mobile gamer Loki Studios.

Yahoo-watchers are wondering if this string of purchases actually adds up to a coherent strategy, or if Mayer is simply picking up inexpensive companies (except for Tumblr) in order to see if any of them have that lightning-in-a-bottle. Some observers have suggested that several of the purchases, such as Summly or Rondee, were made primarily to acquire the engineering talent.
 

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