It's a go for Google's acquisition of AdMob. On Friday, the Federal Trade Commission concluded its investigation on a 5-0 vote and said the purchase "is unlikely to harm competition in the emerging market for mobile-advertising networks."
The FTC added that "recent developments" in the market overshadowed any concerns it had about Google combining its mobile advertising strength with AdMob's. It cited Apple's announcement that it is launching its own competing mobile-ad network, as well as "a number of firms" that are developing or acquiring smartphone platforms to compete against Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. These competing platforms, the agency said, will have a "strong incentive" to maintain and increase competition among mobile-advertising networks.
A Competitive Market
In January, Apple bought Quattro Wireless and has built its iAd service around the acquisition. The maker of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad also controls its application marketplace, manages the user data on its devices, and owns the tools and licenses to create applications for its platforms.
In November, Google first announced its intent to acquire AdMob, which is based in San Mateo, Calif. It was founded in 2006 by Omar Hamoui, who was trying to find ways to generate traffic for his mobile site.
The price was $750 million, and, in its announcement, Google said the acquisition would give advertisers and publishers more choice, bring innovation to mobile advertising, and lead to more effective tools, among other benefits. Before the AdMob buy, Google's focus was on mobile search ads, while AdMob's was display and in-application ads.
Google also noted at the time that AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo have also made mobile-advertising acquisitions in the last two years. The FTC's reference to Apple's position reflects the fact that iPhone and Android mobile users browse the web more than other users, and they spend about 90 minutes a day using applications on their devices.
iPhone Solved AdMob's Problems
At the time of the Google acquisition, Hamoui -- ironically -- posted on AdMob's blog that the coming of Apple's iPhone solved "so many problems that had plagued mobile for so long." His company launched the first iPhone ad units, and has now added Palm, Nokia and Android-powered devices. And, he said, the company is "not going away."
Because of Apple's entry into this market, the FTC said, "AdMob's success to date on the iPhone platform is unlikely to be an accurate predictor" of the ad network's competitive position, whether or not it is owned by Google.
But the FTC said that, even though competitors appear to be lining up, it will continue to monitor mobile advertising for signs of antitrust activity. Since Google and AdMob used to be competitors, there are economies of scale that could give Google-AdMob a "major advantage over smaller rivals in the business," the agency said.