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Apple crushes Quattro as RIM hot-wires own ads vehicle

The fast, the furious and the expensive

As Apple shuts down Quattro Wireless in favour of its own advertising platform iAds, it seems that RIM is looking to make a similar move into mobile advertising.

Quattro Wireless was in the business of embedding adverts into mobile applications and web sites, but was bought by Apple in January to provide intelligence for Apple's iAds server - which is limited to the iOS platform. That intelligence transfer is now complete, and the Quattro service has disappeared. RIM, meanwhile, is considering spending $400m for another mobile advertising player, Millennial.

The Wall Street Journal cites the omni-prescient "people familiar with the matter" saying that RIM balked at paying such a high price for Millennial. Apple is reckoned to have paid around $275m for Quattro, though both numbers look small when compared to the $750m that Google shelled out for AdMob. But even if it won't pay $400m, RIM is still looking to make an acquisition in the mobile advertising space.

This makes sense for a company that wants to be taking seriously as a competitor to Apple. RIM yesterday introduced two new price levels for BlackBerry apps: $1.99 and $.99. Previously apps started at $2.99 or had to be given away free. That brings the platform more in line with the iTunes store, and embedded advertising can provide a useful subsidy for such low prices.

Not that Apple is making a great play with iAds - it's early days, but advertising companies are already complaining that having Apple at the table isn't helping the creative process. Apple has to be there because it's responsible for coding the iAds and spends much of its time explaining what the platform can and can't do. Advertisers have to stump up a million dollars to get onto the platform, for which Nissan gets an ad that changes the colour of the car when you shake the phone. Oddly enough this is one of the hyped features of the Quattro platform.

Quattro itself lies dead in the water. As of this morning the web site redirects to iAds and advertisers have received a notification that iAds is the best thing since sliced bread, and they wouldn't want their message going out to people without an iPhone anyway. ®

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