Of Zingku, Orkut and Google

[qi:83] Google (GOOG) is acquiring certain assets and technology of Zingku, a mobile social network startup that helps users organize their social life via the web and text messaging. Zingku wrote about the deal on its site, and a Google spokesperson confirmed the plans. Zingku, a Boston-based startup was co-founded by Sami Shalabi. The service has been in private beta and new user accounts are currently frozen.

What is Google’s motivation to acquire this little known company? One explanation would be to get talented engineers, but we suspect it would be to bolster their Orkut social network. Zingku is an SMS-turbocharger of sort. While Google lost out to the king and queen of social networking in the U.S. (that’d be MySpace and Facebook), their Orkut is extremely popular in Brazil and India.

These are two countries, where basic phones and text messaging reign supreme and wireless broadband options are less common. Furthermore, Google has plans to roll out a mobile phone that takes true advantage of the mobile web, as rumor has it. But if the phone relies too heavily on wireless broadband, it won’t get much traction in fast growing markets where mobile broadband is still in infancy.

The total number of mobile subscribers worldwide is set to cross three billion in late 2007, and worldwide mobile penetration will pass 50 percent in 2008, according to UK-based research firm Portio Research. The firm notes the number of SMS messages will spike from 967.7 billion in 2006 to over 2070 billion messages by 2012 in Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, SMS accounts for approximately 75 to 80 percent of non-voice service revenues worldwide.

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