Google Picks Up Picnik

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Last fall, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt said the search giant would aim to make at least one small acquisition every month. So far, Schmidt has followed through and then some. Google (GOOG) has acquired eight companies over the past six months. The latest is Seattle-based Picnik, a photo utility site. Google has not disclosed the price.

Picnik has quickly become one of the most popular photo sites on the Web for editing, cropping and uploading pictures. The decision to acquire Picnik fits in with the company's broader strategy: To build web tools and promote those apps on the Web.

Founded in 2006, Picnik launched its flash-based service in beta in February 2007. Today, it's widely considered one of the first sites to bring photo editing to the "cloud," where users can edit and resize pictures without having to leave their browser.

The company, which competes against services such as Photoshop Express and Snipshot, currently offers two versions of its photo-editing software -- one is free and the other costs about $2 per month. The free version, which is good enough for most casual users, lets you crop pictures, fix colors and upload them. The paid version allows users to manipulate images as well. Since Google is all about providing free applications, it's unclear whether it will continue to charge for the premium service.

What About Picasa?

The acquisition, however, has raised a number of questions about the future of Google's photo-editing software, Picasa. According to product manager Brian Axe, Google intends to add new features to the software. He said the company will continue to support Picasa and all existing Picnik partners so that users can add photos from other photo-sharing sites and save them and share them with other networks.

Even so, the news can't be good for Google competitors that now use Picnik. Yahoo Mail (YHOO), for example, relies on Picnik to let its users edit pictures right inside the mail application. Facebook and Flickr also integrate the Picnik application in their sites.

Picnik has 20 employees, with titles such as Office Wrangler, Penguin Handler and Picnik Community Therapist. Among its employees are cofounders Darrin Massena and Mike Harrington, both former developers of Microsoft Bob, the failed Microsoft (MSFT) operating system released in 1995.

Picnik, however, has been rapidly gaining ground and its acquisition gives Google yet another product in its arsenal of Web-based tools. In February, the company announced that 1 billion photos had been edited on Picnik.com.
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