eBay announced Wednesday that it has purchased a start-up called RedLaser, an iPhone application that scans product bar codes for price comparison and product search purposes, as well as "related technologies" from RedLaser parent company Occipital. As part of the acquisition, the RedLaser app--which has been downloaded by more than 2 million iPhone users--has transitioned from paid to free in Apple's App Store.
A price wasn't disclosed.
Though RedLaser's app will remain intact, the technology behind it will be integrated into numerous eBay products so that a prospective buyer can scan a bar code and discover related product listings on eBay, and a seller in turn can use it to create listings more quickly by looking up product details via bar code. Among the applications that will be integrating RedLaser technology are the mobile editions of eBay's auction marketplace, ticket reselling service StubHub, and price comparison service Shopping.com.
Additionally, eBay says that it will be expanding opportunities for developers with RedLaser's existing software development kit (SDK). As for the Boulder, Colo.-based Occipital, an alumnus of the TechStars incubator program, it'll continue to be an independent company--it's just sold the app and some other technology to eBay. Later this year, Occipital plans to launch a new application "based on a completely new computer vision engine."
eBay's acquisition history has been spotty--the purchases of Skype and StumbleUpon were eventually spun back out--but this one makes sense. eBay has put a lot of emphasis on its mobile services lately: after launching its first iPhone application two years ago, it's seen 10 million downloads of its "core" app alone, and it launched an iPad app earlier this year. The company expects its revenues from mobile commerce to go up from $600 million last year to $1.5 billion in 2010.