Google leads tech pack in acquisitions this year

Search giant's deals nearly double No. 2 IBM's; Microsoft stays on sidelines

New data compiled by CB Insights reveal some interesting trends this year regarding major technology companies and their acquisition activities.

As you can see from the chart below, search giant Google far outpaces other tech giants in buying smaller companies in 2010. With 23 purchases (and more than one-quarter of the year remaining), Google has made 23 acquisitions. In second place is IBM, which has 12 deals under its belt so far in 2010.

After that there's a big drop-off to HP (seven) and Facebook (six). Meanwhile, which company is pulling up the rear? None other than Microsoft, which for years has developed a reputation for its inability to innovate. Instead, critics say, Microsoft acquires technology. (Which, when Redmond does it, apparently is a bad thing.)

Microsoft's lack of acquisitions (so far) in 2010 can be open to a couple of different interpretations. CB Insights speculates that Microsoft may be focused on "organic growth," something many industry watchers for years have said is sorely lacking on the Redmond campus, and wonders if "something larger" is brewing.

Then there's the viewpoint represented by Doug McIntyre of 24/7 Wall Street. In a blog post last week, I noted McIntyre's reaction to Microsoft's announcement that it would be returning its first dividend to shareholders in two years.

He called the dividend increase "a sad admission of defeat," noting that Microsoft has sat on the sidelines this year "while many of its rivals have made strings of acquisitions."

"In a world where a number of companies could augment Microsoft’s businesses, it has not found any worth buying," McIntyre wrote.

Frank Reed over at Marketing Insights offers a similarly stark perspective regarding Microsoft's lack of acquisitions this year:

"They are who they are and they try to be other things from the inside out. Unfortunately for them, who they are on the inside isn’t working in the new world order of the online space thus many of their efforts to stay current have failed and created an image of a bloated cash cow dependent entity that is not an innovator."

Now, there's a pretty big gulf between "something larger brewing" and "sad admission of defeat." Any Redmond watchers (or bashers) care to weigh in?

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