iPhone Apps A Hot Acquisition Market


The iPhone app store is a huge success for Apple (AAPL), with more than 1 billion apps downloaded in nine months. But it’s also turning into a hot acquisition market.

The latest deal: IAC (IACI) has purchased Urbanspoon, a restaurant-finding site/iPhone app that Apple lists as the no. 11 most popular free app of all time. (Helped, no doubt, by an Apple television commercial.) The team will stick together in Seattle, now working for IAC — after an “offer [they] couldn’t refuse.”

Earlier this week, Amazon (AMZN) purchased Lexcycle, which makes Stanza, a free e-book reader app. Presumably, the Stanza team will now build the next generation of Amazon Kindle mobile apps. (In the meantime, it promises no changes to Stanza.)

And we’ve seen a few other deals over the past few months. For example, Amazon rival Barnes & Noble (BKS) purchased an entire e-book platform — Fictionwise — which includes an iPhone e-reader app. Tumblr, the NYC-based blogging service, purchased an app called Tumblrette, which is now the official Tumblr app.

This makes sense. Many of the most successful apps are nimble startups run by a few people with little or no outside funding. That means apps can be acquired — and engineers and designers can be ‘acq-hired’ — for a price that’s fair to the buyer and probably very nice for the seller.

So who’s next to get purchased?

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