Apple to Acquire Quattro Wireless, Enters Ad Game

By Steve Smith

Apple Computer is set to announce its acquisition of mobile ad network and content developer Quattro Wireless, according to multiple reports, including AllThingsD and AdAge. The deal, valued at $250 million to $275 million, will put Apple into a new game: digital advertising. Quattro, while not as large as rivals AdMob or Millennial Media, is associated with leading content brands. Google announced it was purchasing AdMob for $750 million late last year.

The Quattro sale could directly affect magazine brands since the company has helped build and monetize mobile sites and apps for the likes of Car & Driver, Playboy, ELLE, Sports Illustrated and many others. This move could position Apple well for servicing print and media brands on its rumored tablet device.

Apple is new to the ad world, but this acquisition signals that it is ready to go head to head with Google over the entire mobile content and advertising ecosystem. It also demonstrates just how hot the mobile sector will become in 2010 and how much the major Web players hope to control it. Microsoft already operates a large mobile ad network, including much of the inventory on primary partner Verizon. AOL, which years ago acquired one of the earliest mobile ad networks, Third Screen Media, has been relatively dormant in the mobile arena, but it continues to exert a sizable footprint on the platform. Yahoo has had an aggressive mobile content and search outreach, but it may be the next major player to go shopping for a mobile ad network.