Apple and Google engage in high-level talks with mobile payment company BOKU

Tue, Nov 2, 2010

News, Rumors

While some handset manufacturers like to talk about screen size and GHz, Apple doesn’t hide the fact that it views the iPhone as a software platform where user utility supersedes arbitrary hardware specs. That said, there have been a number of rumors swirling about suggesting Apple may soon incorporate RFID technology into the iPhone, a feature which would enable users to pay for goods simply by swiping their iPhone over a payment pad, much like how some drivers use RFID devices to pay for tolls on US highways.

There’s no question that Apple is looking for ways to enrich, and perhaps differentiate, the iPhone user experience compared to rival handsets. That being the case, TechCrunch recently relayed an interesting rumor noting that Apple is in talks to acquire a mobile payment startup called BOKU.

BOKU is a startup company which has partnered with a number of carriers, including AT&T, to enable customers to pay for goods right using their cellphone number and without having to whip out a credit card. The way it works is that a consumer enters his/her phone number whereupon a confirmation message is sent to that user’s phone. Once every thing’s a go, the transaction is processed and the purchase cost is tacked onto a users monthly phone bill. BOKU’s co-founder Ron Hirson notes that a carriers take per transaction might be around 10% though they’re to get that percentage even lower.

Interestingly enough, TC notes that Google is also engaging in high level talks with BOKU, a fact which might very well make Apple uneasy, and perhaps quick to pull the trigger. Remember that Apple was seriously interested in acquiring AdMob before Google, upon hearing of Apple’s interest (or so the story goes), swooped in and snatched up the company in 2009 for a whopping $750 million. Apple subsequently had to regroup whereupon they acquired Quattro Wireless and event went so far as to hire a Goldman Sachs investment banker to help the company execute deals much more swiftly and avoid an AdMob scenario from happening again. The report notes, however, that Google may only be interested in striking a mobile payment deal for its Android OS as opposed to an outright acquisition.

While talks between the companies are still in the early stages, a source tells TechCrunch that a purchase price for the company may be anywhere from $250 to $450 million – which, you know, is basically walking around money for Apple given its cash and reserves of $51 billion.



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