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Apple grabs Quattro Wireless, Waltham-based mobile advertising firm

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 5, 2010 08:19 AM

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The Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog reported last night that Apple will soon announce an acquisition of Waltham-based Quattro Wireless, a mobile advertising firm founded in 2006. AllThingsD put a $275 million price tag on the deal. Two local venture firms, Highland Capital Partners and GlobeSpan Capital, put about $28 million into Quattro. Not a shabby return after just three years.

A source close to the company tells me that Quattro will tell its customers about the acquisition today. But although the deal closed in 2009, this source wasn't sure when Apple might make an official announcement. 

Quattro CEO Andy Miller will be reporting directly to Steve Jobs, and Quattro's 150 employees are expected to keep their jobs in Waltham, I'm told. (Miller was previously a senior vice president at m-Qube, a company acquired by VeriSign for $250 million and then off-loaded last year; that company had been backed in part by GlobeSpan.) Quattro's revenue run rate is about $50 million, according to my source, who observes that advertising is a brand new line of business for Apple. Quattro is expected to help Apple generate revenue from the ads that show up in iPhone apps, all of which are now delivered by third party firms that share revenue with app developers -- but not Apple.

A big question for 2010 and beyond will be whether Apple's purchase of Quattro -- or Google's $750 million acquisition of AdMob last November -- will prove the better deal, as far as positioning the companies to do well in mobile advertising. (Or perhaps both will prove wise...)

Just put in a call to Andy Miller to see if he can comment....

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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