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5/3/2010
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Google Acquires BumpTop

Elements of BumpTop's 3D user interface could be used in future Google smartphones or slate computers.

Google has bought BumpTop, a Canadian startup that developed a 3D interface for Mac and Windows PCs.

BumpTop announced the acquisition over the weekend on its Web site and said it would no longer be selling its software or offering updates. People who bought the paid version were directed to the company's support page. BumpTop planned to continue offering a free version of its software until May 7.

BumpTop described its product as a "desktop workspace" that offers a visually intuitive way to organize and access pictures, video, and documents. People can use a mouse to interact with the software, or their fingers if their computer has a multi-touch screen. A demonstration of the software was available on YouTube.

Google has not commented on the acquisition, so it's not clear what the search engine has planned for BumpTop. However, elements of the technology could possibly be used on a smartphone built with Google's Android operating system or in a future slate computer, similar to Apple's recently released iPad.

Founded in February 2007, BumpTop received $1.65 million in funding from angel investors and the venture capital firms GrowthWorks and Xtreme Venture Partners, according to tech blog TechCrunch.

Among the first to report the acquisition was Canadian venture debt firm Wellington Financial. Mark R. McQueen, president and chief executive, said in his blog that he believed Google paid about $35 million for BumpTop. McQueen estimated the total investment in the company to date at between $2 million and $3 million.

As to Google's motivation, McQueen said it was likely related to its intensifying competition with Apple.

"Given the arm wrestling going on between Apple and Google over who will have the sweetest user experience, BumpTop’s cool desktop and underlying technology are a natural piece of Google's user interface puzzle as they prepare to take on the current kings of all consumer electronics," McQueen said.

Google's latest acquisition followed about a week after it bought Labpixies, a maker of social games and widgets that works with services like Facebook, iGoogle, and mobile devices.

At the time, the deal was Google's fourth acquisition in April. Other companies that Google bought included Agnilux, Plink, and Episodic.

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