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Tuesday, January 05, 2010, 03:50 pm PT (06:50 pm ET)

Quattro purchase seen as defensive move for iPhone, offensive for tablet

Apple is likely looking to get a piece of the mobile advertising space on its own App Store, but is also looking to dominate ads on its forthcoming tablet from the get-go with the purchase of Quattro Wireless, one analyst told AppleInsider.

Tole Hart, research director, consumer services with Gartner, said Apple's $275 million acquisition of Quattro will give the Cupertino, Calif., company flexibility not only with App Store software, but also on mobile Web sites tailored specifically for the iPhone. In that respect it's a defensive move to fend off its rival, Google.

As Google encroaches on Apple's smartphone market with Android, Apple is likely looking to retain some control on its own platform, Hart said. Google is already the largest online advertiser, and the acquisition of AdMob, if approved by the Federal Trade Commission, will make it a dominant force in the mobile advertising space.

But while Apple is playing catch-up with Google in the iPhone advertising space, it can get a head start on everyone else with the forthcoming multimedia tablet device it is expected to announce this month and release in March.

"I think this is more of an offensive move for the tablet," Hart told AppleInsider, "and if they had to do it over again with the iPhone and iTouch, they might have more control over the advertising. The tablet gives them a second crack at this."

Earlier Tuesday, Andy Miller, CEO of Quattro Wireless, confirmed Apple purchased his company. Miller, who has been named vice president of Mobile Advertising at Apple, said the offerings and services provided by Quattro would not change in the immediate future.

"Together with Apple, we look forward to developing exciting new opportunities in the future that will benefit our customers," he said.

Apple's interest in the mobile advertising space is not new. Before it was acquired by Google for $750 million, AdMob was approached by Apple. The terms of the two companies' discussions are unknown.

Hart said Apple is likely to allow other services to place advertisements within App Store software. But Apple could make it easier or allow a more robust feature set for developers who embrace the homegrown advertising service.

"I think they want a piece of the iPhone and iPod touch action," he said. "They do want to let other ad networks in, because they do not want to stifle developers."