Apple and Google after Boku?

2 Nov 2010

TechCrunch: Apple’s next strategic move

Yesterday: AT&T inks deal w/ Boku

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10265243-36.html

What is Boku’s core asset? Technology? MNO billing relationships?

Hope that Apple and Google look long and hard at the MNO contracts as the “secret sauce” that has driven Boku’s growth. Boku’s MNO friendly approach and neutrality allows any customer to buy digital goods and charge it to their carrier bill.  Neither Google, nor Apple would seem to have a strategic fit here. Why would carriers allow Google/Apple to bill to goods to their customers? Or perhaps I should ask at what cost will carriers allow this to happen?

All of this is even more relevent as ATT/Verizon/TMobile/Discover,.. etc. build their own payments business.

Boku is a great business, but it operates on a precipice much the way PayPal did in its early days.  Carrier billing can certainly be  a much more cost effective infrastructure for mobile digital goods purchases. But what drives this efficiency? Isn’t it the carriers and their relationship to mobile customers?

On the “buy side” digital goods stores use Boku because of its independence. So if Apple buys Boku will Android still support Boku payments (http://www.boku.com/android/)? I do think Boku is in play.. but the real acquirer may look more like the Mercury NewCo than google.. as the MNO synergies are the core of the Boku business model. Unfortunate that the Mercury NewCo still has no CEO.

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