Let the tech wars begin

Let the tech wars begin

Titan Aerospace is a small tech startup founded in 2012, employing just 20 people. A few months ago Facebook tried to buy it for a reputed US$60 million.

What does Titan Aerospace do?

For the past two years, it has been developing unmanned, solar-powered aircraft drones that will theoretically be able to fly for years in the Earth's upper atmosphere without ever landing.

Google was also interested in Titan, and eventually was able to acquire it in April this year for an undisclosed amount.

Meanwhile, Facebook opted to buy another drone maker, the UK-based Ascenta, for US$20 million.

But just what does a social media leader and a search engine giant want with a company that makes aircraft drones?

Google and Facebook's battle over the future of tech

In the last few months, Google has acquired startups pioneering robotics, artificial intelligence, and Internet-connected devices for homes.

Meanwhile, Facebook has furthered its foray into smartphone apps and emerging technologies, including the controversial purchase of Oculus VR, the company behind the Kickstarter-funded Oculus Rift virtual reality technology, for US$2billion in March.

Between them, Google Co-founder, Larry Page, and Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have embarked on a shopping spree of eight companies in the past six months.

Google spent US$3.2 billion acquiring Nest, a maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors, which will put it at the forefront of the connected home concept. It also paid US$400 million for DeepMind, a startup specialising in artificial intelligence, and undisclosed amounts buying out two robotics companies, Boston Dynamics, and Schaft.

Meanwhile, Facebook's US$19 billion purchase of the popular texting app WhatsApp was the second largest tech acquisition of all time, trailing only Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of Compaq for US$25 billion (US$33.4 billion when adjusted for inflation) in 2002.

The buyout let Facebook pick up all 32 of WhatsApp's engineering team, neatly securing itself valuable talent, but more importantly directly strengthened Facebook's position on smartphones and gave it inroads to WhatsApp's 450 million users.

Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR suddenly puts it at the forefront of entertainment technology, and ambitious plans like a billion-person virtual reality MMO game have already been hinted at.

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