Report: Apple (& Google) Want BOKU

Apple and Google are both engaged in talks with a mobile payment startup called BOKU. Citing sources “familiar with the talks,” TechCrunch reported that BOKU President and CEO Mark Britto and cofounder Ron Hirson have both held talks with executives at both Apple and Google.

The two BOKU execs have been in discussions with Apple’s iPhone business, of course, while TechCrunch’s source specifically cited Michael Morrissey, the Director of Engineering for Google Mobile Services as the point of contact at that company.

Money Makes the World Go Around

As the story goes, Apple is specifically looking for an acquisition, while Google’s intentions are less clear. BOKU was most recently valued at US$100 million in its last round of VC funding, and TechCrunch’s source said that Apple could pay from $250 million to $450 million for the company, if the buyout took place.

Apple has more than $51 billion in cash, and the company has never spent more than $500 million in acquiring a company.

BOKU’s business is enabling mobile payments through your mobile phone (or smartphone), particularly for digital goods and social networking services. The company recently struck a deal with AT&T that enables customers to pay for music and movies through their phones (i.e. having those payments added to their AT&T account), bypassing the need for a credit card on those purchases.

It’s not clear what Apple might want from BOKU. Apple has bought companies for technology and personnel as often as it has bought them for their existing business, but the mobile space is clearly an important aspect of Apple’s overall business.