Apple, flush with cash, is apparently looking for new ways of spending it. The manufacturer recently purchased streaming music service Lala, and was reportedly looking at the mobile ad provider AdMob before Google snapped it up. Now comes word, reported by an informant to Silicon Valley Insider, that Apple is in talks to acquire VoIP company iCall in a deal valued at from $50 million to $60 million US.
Coming on the heels of the acquisition by Google of a VoIP provider, Gizmo5 (they had previously bought Grand Central, which became Google Voice), the move - as yet only rumor - is an interesting one. Google is, increasingly, Apple's direct competitor in mobile services and software, and is on the verge of releasing its first hardware phone: the Nexus One, built by HTC. Though little is known with certainty about the Google phone, it's believed that it will be sold unlocked. Some observers are speculating that the device will be positioned as a true VoIP mobile phone.
Silicon Valley Insider posits the idea that Apple would do well to move into being a VoIP service provider to capitalize on the potential future of IP-based mobiles:
As data networks evolve, it will be possible to make calls as well over the Internet as by using a voice network, and cheaper. (It's already getting there.) And that's when Apple may seek to increase its control over iPhone owners -- and recurring revenue from them -- by becoming a VoIP service provider. Moreover, as that becomes a bigger industry, Apple should not give that business to Skype, Google, or anyone else
iCall co-founder and CEO Arlo Gilbert was contacted by Silicon Valley Insider but would not confirm or deny any talks. According to Gilbert, iCall has more than 100,000 iPhone users. The website also notes that the company owns the trademark to "iCall," which is something that Apple may be interested in, even separate from the company's technology and personnel.