Apple is in conversations with mobile payments startup Boku about a potential acquisition or partnership, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the talks, TechCrunch reports that both Apple and Google are in talks with Boku, which, through agreements with cellular carriers, lets customers purchase goods by typing in their phone number instead of using a credit card or PayPal account. The report claims that Boku President and CEO Mark Britto and co-founder Ron Hirson have held multiple meetings with executives from Apple’s iPhone division over the course of the past three weeks. Boku has reportedly been in high-level meetings with Google as well, specifically with Director of Engineering Michael Morrissey, who oversees development for Google Mobile Services for Android. It is unclear whether Google is exploring an outright acquisition, which Apple is said to be seeking; TechCrunch’s source indicates that Apple could end up paying as little as $250 million or as much as $450 million to purchase the company. Boku’s talks with both companies are said to be at an early stage.
Apple and Google previously engaged in talks with mobile advertising firm AdMob, with a last-minute bid from Google preventing Apple from purchasing the company and leading to Apple’s acquisition of Quattro Wireless, which later became the basis for the company’s iAds platform. Jobs later admitted that Apple attempted to purchase AdMob, and that Google came in and “snatched” the company from Apple; that situation may offer Apple added incentive to close a potential deal with Boku before Google has a chance to sign a partnership agreement with and/or purchase the company.