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Google (s goog) today announced it has acquired the web photo editing tool Picnik. The Flash-based Picnik, which faces lots of competition from services like FotoFlexer, Snipshot and Photoshop Express, is perhaps the cutest of the bunch, and is also integrated tightly with Yahoo’s (s yhoo) Flickr. Picnik was self-funded and said to be profitable for more than a year based on premium services.
This falls right into line with Google’s recent string of buys of companies started by its former employees: AppJet, Aardvark and reMail. Picnik co-founder Jonathan Sposato had sold a previous company, Phatbits, to Google in 2005. The desktop apps platform became Google Gadgets. According to Sposato’s LinkedIn, he stayed with Google less than a year.
Along with being profitable, Picnik had 20 employees so this wasn’t just small change for Google (well, everything’s small change for the Goog). The Picnik team is supposed to move over to Google’s Seattle offices. Google hopes to maintain the product’s integrated position across web services; it took time in a short blog post to emphasize, “[W]e’d like to continue supporting all existing Picnik partners so that users will continue to be able to add their photos from other photo sharing sites, make edits in the cloud and then save and share to all relevant networks.”
While web-based photo editors are incredibly useful — I know I’ve used them all rather than put my computer through the rigors of running Photoshop — perhaps a more interesting emerging area is mobile photo editors. There are a whole bunch of popular, creative and paid photo apps for the iPhone (s AAPL) — though not with a ton of crossover to the Picnik category, probably because of Apple’s exclusion of Flash.