- Of Google and Intel's combined 29 deals, each spent more than $250 million on just two artificial intelligence acquisitions between 2009 and 2019, more than any other big tech companies, according to research from RS Components. The report highlights acquisitions from Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce and IBM.
- Google bought Nest Labs ($3.2 billion) and DeepMind ($500 million) in 2014. Intel acquired Nervana ($350 million) and Movidius ($400 million) in 2016. Facebook had the second most expensive AI acquisition in 2019 when it bought CTRL-Labs for $1 billion.
- Google, Facebook and Apple have the most AI acquisitions with undisclosed details. Most of Google's acquisitions lacking financial disclosure took place between 2014 and 2016 when it bought Emu Messenger, Jetpac, Revolv, Granata Decision Systems and Timeful.
Big tech's top 5 AI acquisitions of the last decade
SOURCE: RS Components
Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are driving the consolidation of the AI market. The last decade saw 635 AI acquisitions, according to research from CB Insights.
As AI startups are swallowed by industry establishments, concern is mounting over big tech's overall role in tech monopolization.
Last week the Federal Trade Commission announced it's investigating unreported acquisitions made by big tech, specifically those of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. While some transactions are lawfully non-reportable under the Hart–Scott–Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, the FTC wants to ensure no deals are "problematic."
"Sometimes, these deals take place even before the acquired company has released a product to the market at all," Blair Hanley Frank, principal analyst at ISG, told CIO Dive in an email. Those transactions "may help the competitive position of different tech giants, since they allow these larger firms to control access to that new technology."
The FTC is leaning on a broad definition of acquisitions to encompass data, licensing and board-appointees. Though the deals are inherently smaller, they influence corporate development strategies, according to Frank.
Cloud providers in particular want to offer customers a designated AI platform. Acquired AI startups — melded together under one company — will be used to develop a broad AI platform.
Small deals in the machine learning space are important because "there has been an explosion of smaller startups seeking to commercialize novel discoveries that larger firms then acquire to integrate into their own businesses," said Frank.
In the next generation of AI startups, big tech will look for companies that cater to specific industries' needs. The FTC said it could dismantle the deals if it ultimately finds transactions are threatening a monopoly or in violation of antitrust scenarios.