Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Acquisitions in Tech Have a Checkered History

Jan Dawson, in what amounts to a response to that dreadful Bloomberg article about Apple’s acquisition strategy:

The reality is M&A is a risky business, with one of the biggest challenges being cultural fit. That’s particularly challenging at Apple because it sees its culture as both unique and uniquely important. That means smaller deals for technology and tight-knit teams of people are a better fit than massive established businesses with large workforces. For other companies with more generic engineering and software cultures, such acquisitions may be easier.

But it’s also fair to say the biggest failures include several attempts to use big acquisitions as levers for massive strategic shifts, while the most successful acquisitions have often been logical extensions of existing businesses. Skype, Nokia, and aQuantive at Microsoft all fell into the former category, for example, whereas Zappos at Amazon, YouTube and DoubleClick at Google, and Instagram at Facebook were all fairly adjacent businesses. Big strategic shifts have rarely been enabled by taking on entirely new and different businesses – those are often best established through organic change or technology acquisitions which enable broader changes.

Apple has made plenty of acquisitions, most of which have been at relatively low prices for what they returned: custom silicon, Siri, NeXT, Steve friggen Jobs, and so on. They just don’t do acquisitions like the investment bankers in that Bloomberg article think that they should.