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Rumor Mill: Google’s next big acquisition could be mobile messenger WhatsApp

Google(s goog) already has numerous peer-to-peer messaging and communications products, but it may not be opposed to buying another. According to Digital Trends, Google is haggling with breakout mobile messaging star WhatsApp over its acquisition price.

The site’s sources claim WhatsApp is apparently in a strong negotiating position, bargaining up a prospective deal to near $1 billion. Digital Trends only cited an unnamed inside source, so we’ll have to wait to see if anything comes of it.

WhatsApp tried to quashed that rumor pretty quickly. Speaking to AllThingsD late Monday, WhatsApp business development head Neeraj Arora said the messaging company is not in any sales discussions with Google.

Why would Google want WhatsApp? Well, it probably doesn’t need the technology. The company has already built cross-platform communications apps that provide the same intrinsic service as WhatsApp and other mobile over-the-top communications apps. But Google has admitted in the past that it’s done a poor job servicing its messaging users, and recently it’s been focusing more attention on the space, merging its Talk, Messenger and Hangouts apps into a single service.

But in the fast-paced world of peer-to-peer communications, the spoils go to those who build the biggest network. Google has got to be impressed by just how big WhatsApp has gotten in the last few years. WhatsApp doesn’t release specific numbers, but in November, App Annie found that WhatsApp was the top paid in 119 countries — including the U.S. — in Apple’s iTunes App Store. WhatsApp Messenger has also racked up more than 100 million Android installs. What makes WhatsApp even more intriguing is that it charges by the download (though the fee is only 99 cents) — it’s growing by leaps in bounds in a market where the software typically comes free.

If Google is interested in WhatsApp, it could be making the same calculation as Facebook(s fb) when it bought Instagram for $1 billion. While Facebook could have developed its own image-filter and sharing app, Instagram was already well on its way to becoming the dominant photo-based social network on mobile. Google may not want to risk WhatsApp eating its lunch in the exploding OTT mobile messaging market — or worse, see it bought by a competitor.

This post was updated on Tuesday at 10:30 AM, adding comments WhatsApp VP Neeraj Arora’s comments to AllThingsD.

4 Responses to “Rumor Mill: Google’s next big acquisition could be mobile messenger WhatsApp”

  1. I wish Google would spend their money on coming up with a good word processing app. Their Chat/Talk package works well however Google Docs, which may be good internally for note taking, doesn’t compete with Word or even Pages on the iPad.

  2. gtalk is in no way cross-platform, which is why it’s not gaining more marketshare. They open up their servers to other jabber clients, but it’s not the same. With native gtalk on android, windows, and the web interface, your messages stay in sync across platforms. If you use an open jabber client, you don’t see messages that only were between your phone and another gtalk client. There’s no native client for OSX or Linux which means you’re stuck with Jabber. Same thing on IOS and Windows Phone. The reason WhatsApp has taken off is because it IS cross-platform. If Google released a free gtalk for blackberry, wp, IOS, linux, symbian and OSX it would likely overtake whatsapp in a month. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper than blowing that kind of cash on whatsapp too.

    Gtalk is actually superior to whatsapp IMO, given that there is no native desktop client for whatsapp. Just port gtalk to more platforms.

    • I think the main reason WhatsApp is so popular is cross-platform messaging, not just cross-platform installation. Cross-platform messaging means, an Android user can message an iPhone user on the other side of the world, without both of them having a login ID on the same platform. All they need are individual phone numbers, which they already have. This is what makes WhatsApp so powerful and popular. It’s just like email – regardless of what mail server or mail platform you use, you can email any other person. It’s a shame that instant messaging is still not similarly cross platform even in this day and age.