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Facebook and Google build anti-Apple teams

Google acquires Android data start-up Behavio, while social networker hires another iPhone veteran

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 17 April, 2013

READ MORE: M&A | Google | Facebook | Applications (Search) | Android

Good time for start-ups and mobile web wizards - the software majors are snapping up talent wherever they can find it to bolster their user experiences and try to dent Apple's lead. This week, Google's latest acquisition is Android mobile data firm Behavio, while Facebook has hired another former member of the iPhone team.


The start-up said it will continue to develop the open source Funf in its own time, but close down another alpha project, which was not yet opened. The team will be assigned to internal Google projects, though it would not specify what these would be beyond saying they would be "exciting things". However, the Funf framework could clearly be harnessed to increase personalization in the Google Now and Google Glass products, the cornerstones of the search giant's attempt to drive the next generation mobile web and search experience.

There is clear relevance to Google's bid to take on Facebook - now that firm is getting serious about mobile advertising revenues - by improving its formerly lacklustre SoLo (social location) efforts via activities like integrating Google+ and Maps.

Its primary goal is to ensure it stays in control of how the search process evolves, a bid over which the high profile of Apple's Siri, which introduces searches powered by artificial intelligence, has cast some doubt. The important fightback centers on Google Now, which takes AI-based search and contextual results a step further, and in which Behavio could be a valuable element.

"We are very excited to announce that the Behavio team is now a part of Google! At Behavio, we have always been passionate about helping people better understand the world around them. We believe that our digital experiences should be better connected with the way we experience the world, and we couldn't be happier to be able to continue building out our vision within Google," Behavio said in a statement on its website.

Meanwbile, Facebook is building its own anti-Google armory and has hired Richard Williamson, a member of the original iPhone team and the manager who led Apple's mapping efforts. Admittedly the latter project was a marked failure, and led to Williamson being pushed out of Apple in November, but otherwise he had a strong decade-long track record, particularly in developing iOS. He will be a manager in Facebook's expanding mobile software group, said insiders.

Several members of the iPhone software group have defected to Facebook recently. Others include Greg Novick, a former iPhone manager who helped develop the device's touch interface; Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris, software designers who joined when Facebook acquired their company Push Pop Press; and software engineers Scott Goodson, Tim Omernick and Chris Tremblay. Facebook has also hired Loren Brichter, the software designer behind Twitter's original iPhone app and the word-puzzle game Letterpress, as a consultant, Bloomberg sources said. Brichter also once worked at Apple, as did Facebook's head of consumer marketing, Rebecca Van Dyck.

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