(Fierce Mobile) Archrivals Apple and Google are reportedly circling around mobile payment solutions firm Boku, with both tech giants in talks to acquire the startup or at least hammer out a wide-ranging partnership agreement. Citing sources familiar with the negotiations, TechCrunch reports Boku president and CEO Mark Britto and co-founder Ron Hirson have met with Apple on multiple occasions over the past three weeks. At the same time, Boku execs also have taken several meetings with Google director of engineering Michael Morrissey, who oversees the Android mobile services team–in June 2010, Boku unveiled tools enabling developers to add in-app payment options to their Android Market efforts.
TechCrunch notes that while Apple is exploring options to acquire Boku, Google’s intentions are not as clear–all discussions remain in the early stages, with one source forecasting Apple could spend anywhere between $250 million and $450 million to seal the deal. While Apple is presumably more interested in Boku’s internal talent and worldwide reach, the company’s payment technology would greatly benefit Google, which has struggled to simplify Android Market app purchase processing.
The Boku solution spans more than 220 operators in over 60 countries, enabling subscribers to make online purchases via mobile phone by entering their mobile number and charging the item directly to their monthly bill. In June 2009, Boku announced the close of a $13 million venture round, at the same time acquiring mobile payment companies Paymo and Mobillcash for an unspecified sum; to date, the startup has raised more than $38 million. Last week, Boku–as well as rivals BilltoMobile and Zong–signed on with AT&T (NYSE:T) for a new mobile payment trial enabling consumers to scoop up digital music, movies and virtual goods by entering their mobile phone number instead of their credit card or PayPal information.