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Apple gobbles apps search robot Chomp

Oz startup drafted in to improve iTunes

Apple has scooped up a search engine for apps in an acquisition for an undisclosed sum yesterday, although Bloomberg said a source had revealed the price at around $50m.

Insiders expect that Chomp's proprietary search engine set up by Aussie Ben Keighran in 2009 to promote app discovery will become a cornerstone of the new iTunes, which Apple plans to launch later this year.

Chomp's algorithm sorts apps by function as well as by name. Over the past two years, the company has landed some lucrative deals with Android providers – including a gig with Verizon organising its Android app store – deals we imagine will wither out as the Chomp team move into Cupertino.

Apple has bought out the start-up's product along with its entire 20-strong team. 9 to 5 Mac was told that Keighran and Chomp CTO Cathy Edwards are "already working at Apple".

Improved app search could solve one of the app store's big problem: that apps sink and get lost, with a handful at the top taking the lion's share of the profits. Improved search and discovery could also help bolster iTunes' music and video offerings against the rise of Spotify and Amazon music in the States.

Coming after the launch of Siri in October, it's another instance of Apple attempting to redesign search. Of course the iTunes revamp will only change search within its app store, but given that apps have become a £20bn business, the way that the app ecosystem is organised is significant and marks an important shift to a new search paradigm. Google had better get working on some way of organising its apps too, and not just to help Verizon. ®

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