Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Google acquire Jaiku

Google Inc has acquired the Finnish company Jaiku, one of a new class of start-ups that offer instant-messaging tools for Web and cell phone users to keep track of their friends' daily activities.

Writing on Goggle's official blog, Tony Hsieh, a Google product manager, said his company had acquired Helsinki-based Jaiku Ltd. Google confirmed in a separate statement that the deal had closed but did not reveal financial terms.

"Although we don't have definite plans to announce at this time, we're excited about helping drive the next round of developments in Web and mobile technology," Silicon Valley-based Google said in a statement on Jaiku's Web site.

The small acquisition coincides with mounting speculation that Google is pushing to expand into mobile Internet services by going beyond its existing smattering of one-off services to create mobile operating system software that could run phones.

Lehman Brothers analyst Douglas Anmuth said in a note on Tuesday that Google could potentially launch its own cell phone device as early as February 2008. He described the phone as a simple, low-cost handset featuring a variety of Google Web applications and supported by online advertising.


Jaiku encourages users to send frequent short messages about themselves to the company's Web site where friends or other online contacts can keep track of the user's comings and goings. It is one of a new category of services popular with heavy Web users that include rivals Twitter and Pownce.

Such virtual voyeurism turns conventional notions of personal privacy on its head by encouraging users to share tidbits of their lives with people they invite to watch.

Privacy settings give users control over who sees what: The appeal is the unprecedented sense of intimacy such technologies give to trusted friends while moving about their daily lives.

The service also pipes these messages out to other Web sites, blogs, or to the cell phones of friends who wish to read instant updates of a user's activities.

The system also can send messages to popular instant message services from AIM, Yahoo, MSN or Google Talk, among other services.

Jaiku was set up in February of this year by co-founders Jyri Engestrom and Petteri Koponen, who released their first service in July of 2006.

The company's handful of employees will join Google, which plans to expand Jaiku's technology in coming months, it said. Current Jaiku users can continue to use the service. New users can sign up to join Jaiku once Google releases a new version.

Jaiku has targeted its services at cell phone users on the go. Currently its software is available for smartphones in the series 60 class from Finland's Nokia, the world's largest makers of cell phones.

Google, which acquired a dozen small start-ups this year, had acquired mobile social networking company Dodgeball two years ago. That company's founders quit Google earlier this year.

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