When it comes to big companies acquiring other (sometimes equally big) companies, 2014 has been a record-setting year. Many of the following are game-changing purchases for these companies that expand its skillsets and diversify its value propositions. But it’s not all good: Some of these are so mind-boggling massive that’s it’s hard not to worry about the kind of competition-crushing effects the acquisitions could have on different segments of the industry.
So why look back at them? It’s simple: these massive tech acquisitions point toward the future and give us hints as to where the industry is moving. From virtual reality to AI development, some of the most advanced technologies got transferred into the hands of big companies this year.
So here they are, the 10 biggest tech acquisitions of 2014:
Skybox Imaging created the world’s smallest high-resolution imaging satellite, and now it’s been acquired by Google for $500 million. With the ability to capture this data, Skybox has the ability to access a staggering abundance of information on changes occurring on the surface of the Earth. Both Skybox and Google are highly interested in this kind of data, so the $500 million acquisition makes a lot of sense and gives Google’s location-based services that much more firing power.—Luke Larsen
DeepMind, which aims to make computers think like humans, pairs nicely with Boston Dynamics, a robotics company Google acquired in December. Where Google’s robotics program is headed is still unknown, but the company’s interest in the area is undeniable.
The deal was originally reported to be for $400 million, but new details from The Information bump the number up to $500 million and claim that Google outbid Facebook for the AI startup.—Eric Walters
It’s official: Microsoft is buying Mojang, the developers of Minecraft. Microsoft confirmed the deal in a press release this morning after rumors first spread last week. The computing giant will pay $2.5 billion for the independent developer, whose sandbox game Minecraft is one of the biggest phenomenons in the history of gaming.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, adds, “Minecraft is more than a great game franchise—it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft.”—Garrett Martin
The Nest systems were designed to help consumers save money, create a safer environment, and control their devices from smartphones and tablets. The thermostat learns a schedule and saves energy when consumers are away from their home. The alarm called “Nest Protect” has both a smoke and carbon monoxide detector. The thermostat and detector are priced at $249 and $129 on the Nest website. Nest will continue to produce devices with its own brand identity.
Google’s CEO, Larry Page, said “Nest’s founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, have built a tremendous team that we are excited to welcome into the Google family.”—Kristen Hill
Google first acquired the Illinois-based telecommunications company in 2012 for $12.5 billion dollars, and at the time it stated its interest was primarily in Motorola’s patent portfolio. In the years since the purchase, it has become known that Mountain View grossly overestimated the worth of Motorola’s patents, which it had originally thought could be used to block certain products, such as the iPhone, from the market.
What does Lenovo get? A smartphone company in the US that is on the cutting edge of both software and hardware design. Lenovo controls 5.1% of the worldwide smartphone market, but that is primarily in China and other areas of the world. Ultimately, it seems like a win-win-win scenario, which is increasingly rare in an industry dominated by just a few massive corporations.—Eric Walters
Apple’s possible decision to invest in Beats Audio is smart for obvious reasons: not only has the audio company created an innovative line of headphones, but it has also marketed its company well and developed a subscription streaming service that can compete with Spotify. Beats Music has potential to improve Apple’s streaming service, iTunes Radio, and to provide audio hardware that will easily complement iOS and Mac devices.
Over the past 18 months, Apple has made 24 acquisitions, but none of them have been worth over $1 billion. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently reported that Apple is “on the prowl” for possible investments. “We don’t have a rule that says we can’t spend a lot,” said Cook. “We’ll spend what we think is a fair price.”—Kristen Hill
Oculus VR has become synonymous with the burgeoning virtual reality technology scene and gaming industry with its Oculus Rift headset and has already received more than 75,000 orders for development kits. “We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways,” said Brendan Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR in the same statement. “It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”
Facebook’s intentions for Oculus are unclear at this point but the company’s high profile acquisition and investment spree continues. Along with Oculus, this now also includes drone technology and AI.—Jonathan Keane
Facebook is to purchase messaging app WhatsApp for a sum of $16 billion, through a sale that is divided into $12 billion in Facebook shares and $4 billion cash.
There is also a $3 billion transaction between the two companies in RSUs (restricted stock units) for retaining employees. The acquisition was revealed in anSEC filing.
WhatsApp has approximately 450 million users per month and 70 per cent is active “on any given day”, according to statement from Facebook. This means that Facebook is paying roughly $42 per user. The messaging app claims that they are adding one million users a day.
The sale figure is staggering and upon its announcement, Facebook’s shares dropped five percent in after-hours trading.—Jonathan Keane
Comcast is to acquire Time Warner for a sum of over $45 billion in stocks. The merger will see the country’s two largest cable companies become one, taking up three quarters of the US’s cable market. The merger of the two companies will still see Comcast and Time Warner with a staggering 30 million subscribers.
The duo’s chief competitors are AT&T and Verizon. Both companies provide internet services and paid TV services with each having over five million subscribers, rather small figures when now compared to the combination of Comcast and Time Warner.—Jonathan Keane
Look out: One of America’s dominant mobile providers is growing and its taking a satellite TV giant along for the ride. AT&T announced Sunday that it will purchase DirecTV for a cool $48.5 billion. The agreement was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies and comes just a few months after Comcast announced its massive acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
The deal is motivated by an effort to expand revenue generation beyond AT&T’s traditional mobile telephone services. In recent years, AT&T has seen increased competition in the mobile market and the DirecTV acquisition allows the company to tap into the popular and lucrative video business.
Additionally, AT&T will acquire DirecTV’s substantial subscriber base, which includes over 20 million U.S. customers. This allows AT&T to bolster its consumer bundles, which include video, high-speed internet and mobile access.—Chris Powers