By Guy Grimland, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 10:44 21/02/2010
Search giant Google is in early talks to acquire the Israeli start-up Catch Media to better compete with archrival iTunes, the news Web site Cnet reported.
Catch Media is based in Los Angeles and runs a research and development center in Jerusalem. The company has a strategic partnership with Ariel Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
The company's "Play Anywhere" technology is being developed to help surfers access digital information stored on their home computers - from regular files to movies and music - using a range of devices, such as cellphones and car media players. Users will also be able to share their files with friends.
Co-founder and CEO Yaacov Ben-Yaacov also founded the start-up PictureVision, which Kodak bought in 1998 for over $150 million. "A lot of big companies have been talking about all kinds of things with us," Ben-Yaacov told TheMarker. "We of course are not involved in the report on Cnet, but everybody knows that Google wants a service to compete with Apple's iTunes. You'll soon be hearing a lot of announcements from us regarding collaborations with other companies."
iTunes enables surfers to purchase and download media, but only to Apple hardware - be it computers, iPhones or iPods. Catch Media's technology would enable users to purchase and download material to any device using Google software, such as computers and Android-based cellphones. Their home computer system would essentially become a "home base" for their favorite files, which they could then read, see or hear on other devices either at home or outside the home.
Catch Media already has collaborative relationships with four major music companies: Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and EMI Music.
Yaacov Ben-Yaacov and his brother and co-founder Boaz Ben-Yaacov are serial entrepreneurs. According to IVC Online, Catch Media's investors include Jonathan Medved, the entrepreneur behind Vringo and former manager of the Israel Seed venture capital fund.
Google commented to Cnet that while it is in constant talks with various parties about various things, it does not respond to rumors. A representative of Catch Media refused to comment on the report.
One motive behind Google's interest may be Apple's stated intention to advance iTunes to cloud (pool) computing, creating a free music-streaming service. Catch Media in a sense does that very thing already: It is developing technology for users to easily access their media content from a range of sources using different devices.
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