Apple Buys Chomp, a Provider of Tools for Searching Apps

Apple Inc. (AAPL), the world’s most valuable company, acquired San Francisco-based Chomp Inc., which helps users sort through the widening array of software applications for mobile devices.

The Cupertino, California-based company paid about $50 million for Chomp, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the specifics are private. Apple confirmed the deal yesterday, without disclosing the purchase price.

“We buy smaller technology companies from time to time and generally don’t comment on our purposes or plans,” said Amy Bessette, a spokeswoman for Apple.

Chomp’s software lets people search through the hundreds of thousands of downloadable applications available for Apple’s iPad and iPhone, as well as gadgets running Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Users can enter queries such as “tip calculator” or “kids games” to get different options of apps that fit those descriptions. Apple’s App Store has been criticized by some developers as difficult to navigate beyond the few programs in featured areas on the site.

Apple’s mobile devices lead the industry in applications, with more than 550,000 available in the company’s App Store. Apple is closing in on 25 billion total downloads from the store, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said yesterday.

With past acquisitions of small companies, such as the LaLa music store, Apple has shut down the service and integrated the technology or engineers into its own operations.

Venture Backers

Chomp’s investors include BlueRun Ventures, SV Angel founder Ron Conway, Aydin Senkut, David Lee, Brian Pokorny and Auren Hoffman. Actor Ashton Kutcher is a marketing adviser for the company, according to Chomp’s website. The company also is a partner with Verizon Wireless, which uses Chomp’s search technology in its app store.

Apple, boosted by the success of the iPhone and iPad, has accumulated $97.6 billion in cash and investments on its balance sheet. While the company hasn’t made multibillion-dollar deals, Apple’s executives said earlier this year that acquisitions are among the options it’s considering for the money.

The Chomp purchase was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal and the TechCrunch blog.

To contact the reporters on this story: Adam Satariano in San Francisco at asatariano1@bloomberg.net; Douglas Macmillan in San Francisco at dmacmillan3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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