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Over the week, we heard that social and personal assistant Cue (formerly known as Greplin) was shutting down. The reason for that is now apparent with Apple confirming they have acquired the company to bolster its own personal service efforts. 

Further Assistance Required

You'd have thought Apple would be pretty happy with the way iOS' assistance modes are progressing, but apparently not. The more talkative Siri and the improved up-front calendar and social information in iOS 7 just isn't enough. So, Apple has dived into the start-up market and picked up Cue which offered an iPhone app and web search service (with a premium subscription offering) to help turn your fluff of email and social engagements into a handy calendar and to-do list. 

Before it was Cue, the product was called Greplin which had a more social-media focus, providing search within a user's accounts without having to log into them all. Between the incarnations, the company had raised around $5 million in funding. While Apple doesn't discuss its acquisitions, beyond a boilerplate statement, the word around the camp fire is that it has picked up the company for in excess of $40 million.

The question now is, what will Apple do with the product? Either rebrand and relaunch it with some Siri-like integration, or rip the guts out of the code and embed it into a future iOS update to be an integrated part of the system. The browser search feature could be added into the iCloud website.

The Race To Help and Acquire Heats Up

This latest acquisition is a clear response to Google picking up lots of help apps for its own Android products, most recently with sizeable investment and acquisitions for Google Now (Wavii) and Google Maps (Waze). The acquisition race between the two, with help from Microsoft (Yammer) and Yahoo (Summly) must be keeping many Silicon Valley bars and restaurants running right now. 

Google is slightly ahead of its bitter smartphone rival, having acquired eight companies this year, while Apple has acknowledged seven (mainly in the maps area with Locationary, HopStop and Embark to help cure its perceived weakness in that field). Of course, there may be more that are acquired before a company comes out of stealth mode or is even formally announced. 

Microsoft is behind in numbers on only five but way up on money with the Nokia acquisition costing it a cool $7 billion but the surprise leader in the snapping up start-ups stakes is Yahoo with 19 acquisitions this year, and three months still to go. That level of activity demonstrates Marissa Meyer's drive to make the company more relevant, focusing across a range of popular applications, with Tumblr,  and Rockmelt among them. 

With all these product, leadership, visionary and team member comings and goings, there does seem to be a risk of a lot of value being overlooked in the race to snap up small but valuable players by the big guys. But, as long as they have the billions and angel and capital investors see an easy out, this train won't stop for concerns like that.