Google, Naughty or Nice, Has a Shopping List

No longer firing, Google's hiring and acquiring

By Owen Thomas
|  Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009  |  Updated 2:30 PM PDT
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Google, Naughty or Nice, Has a Shopping List

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Google CEO Eric Schmidt is thinking about what to buy next.

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Google started the year with layoffs. But now, with the corner turned on the economy, it's writing a long shopping list.

CEO Eric Schmidt hinted at Google's new acquisition drive a couple of months ago. But the news that Google and Yelp had serious acquisition talks -- now off, at least for the time being -- show that Google is far more serious about using its cash hoard to bulk up its business.

At media conferences and calls with Wall Street analysts, Schmidt had suggested that Google would make small purchases, largely for the acquired company's engineering talent.

But Google's dealmakers rapidly gave lie to those downsized ambitions when they paid out $750 million for AdMob, a mobile-advertising startup.

Yelp, at a rumored $500 million to $750 million, would likewise have been a large deal.

So what's next? Rumors suggest Google might look at Trulia, a real-estate search engine, or Kayak, a website which searches airfares.

Twitter, the microblogging site now billing itself as a real-time information network, remains a possible target -- though the price seems to escalate daily. Investors recently placed a $1 billion valuation on the still-nascent startup, and would surely demand more from an acquirer.

Google remains astonishingly dominant in its core search business. Microsoft's launch of its Bing search engine and partnership with Yahoo hasn't made a dent in Google's market share.

But burgeoning new fields like mobile and local advertising are up for grabs. Hence Google's recent acquisition of AdMob, a mobile-advertising startup, and its interest in Yelp. Google spent an estimated $1 billion on startups in the past four months alone.

That could just be the beginning of Google's wishlist.

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