Google Snags Plink in Mobile Search Deal

Google continues to open its wallet in a bid to acquire startups specializing in niche technologies as it looks to tune up its offerings outside its core Web search business with new mobile and video features.

The latest acquisition is Plink, a four-month-old U.K. startup focused on visual search technology for mobile devices.

The purchase of Plink marks Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) sixth acquisition of the year, and the second in April.

Plink, founded by doctoral students Mark Cummins and James Philbin, has only brought one product to market in its young life, the PlinkArt app, which uses visual recognition technology to retrieve information about well-known works of art on a mobile device.

Google plans to integrate Plink's technology into its Goggles product, the search giant's own foray into visual search for mobile devices.

"Google has already shown that it's serious about investing in this space with Google Goggles, and for the Plink team the opportunity to take our algorithms to Google-scale was just too exciting to pass up," Cummins and Philbin wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

"We're looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works not just for paintings or book covers, but for everything you see around you," they added.

Cummins and Philbin said that 50,000 users had downloaded the PlinkArt app within four weeks of its launch.

The app will remain available in its current form, they said, though they won't be working on any new updates, instead focusing on integrating the PlinkArt into the Google Goggles product.

The Plink acquisition comes as Google is moving aggressively to ramp up its mobile offerings. In February, Google announced the acquisition of reMail, a mobile e-mail client that had flourished on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone App Store.

That move was widely seen as a sign of escalating competition between Google and Apple, two companies that had enjoyed a cozy relationship until recently when Google's Android platform began finding its way into a bevy of new smartphones, each posing a competitive challenge to the iPhone.

Google's biggest buy in the wireless space came in November, when it shelled out $750 million for the mobile ad firm AdMob, though that transaction has been held up by a lengthy regulatory review that could see the Federal Trade Commission try to block the deal.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has greeted Apple's recent introduction of its own mobile ad platform, dubbed iAd, as a hopeful sign that regulators will see competition growing in the space and clear the AdMob purchase.

Terms of the Plink acquisition were not disclosed.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Google, search, mobile, acquisition, Plink