There's a lot of speculation on why, but the obvious reason is that Google wants more direct access to what they are betting heavily on -- that mobile is the next great advertising medium. It's made a huge bet on mobile with Android, which is an obvious move to own the mobile search ad market, but now it's got its hooks into the mobile display ad market as well.
But what many might be missing could be the biggest reason Google bought AdMob: the data.
With the acquisition of AdMob, Google now has access to usage data of many of the most popular mobile apps -- especially the apps in the iTunes App Store. For iPhones. If Google is taking on Apple for mobile OS market share, it just scored a huge competitive advantage. Google will know more details than ever about how people are using iPhone apps, how they are engaging with advertising within those apps, and users' loyalty to those apps.
Dashboards like the one pictured here only provide a window into the beginning of the mining that Google is likely about to do on its mobile handset competition. There has already been lively conversation about just how much of our personal data Google has access to. Now, even if you don't own an Android phone, Google will be able to collect data.
Until there is enough mobile display advertising to sell to generate healthy-enough revenues (Shazam, anyone?), it may be the access to the data that generates the biggest return on Google's investment.
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