In November, Google surprised many when it announced that it was buying mobile ad network AdMob for a massive $750 million in stock, bringing mobile advertising suddenly into the consciousness of people who’d simply not paid attention before: “Hey, maybe this thing IS for real.”
Now Apple is reportedly buying another tier one mobile ad network, Quattro Wireless, for $275 million. That immediately raises the question: What will Yahoo and Microsoft Do?
Yahoo already is a top mobile ad network and so is Microsoft — in both traffic and estimated revenues. Both rank in the top five in terms of monthly uniques, according to various sources.
In 2007 Microsoft acquired Screen Tonic (mainly for technology) and, last year, committed an estimated $500-$600 million in revenue guarantees to be the search and display ads partner for US carrier Verizon (89 million subscribers). Microsoft’s mobile MSN has 25 million (or more) users.
While Yahoo probably should further expand its reach and buy a mobile display ad network there’s a strong possibility that it will not, perhaps believing that it has all the reach and mobile display assets it needs already. Alternatively, then, a technology or platform buy might be in order. The company recently lost a dynamic display (PC + mobile) ads technology partner in Teracent, when Google bought that company too.
Another possibility for Yahoo might be Mobclix, which operates one of just a few of nascent mobile ad exchanges. It could become the mobile companion to the PC-based Yahoo RightMedia Exchange.
Microsoft, for its part, will probably buy one of the remaining tier one mobile ad networks in the near term. That probably means Millennial Media or JumpTap. But there are a number of other platform, tool providers and so on that might be candidates as well.
While it will take a few years for big mobile ad revenues to show up and justify these prices, rest assured that the mobile internet will only continue to gain adoption. With 70 million users in the US today, poised to pass 100 million at some point this year, this market is real — and red hot.
Postscript: Quattro confirms Apple acquisition.