FTC Delays Action on Google/AdMob -- Maybe It'll Learn Something About Mobile Ads

Last Updated May 13, 2010 1:00 PM EDT

It's always good when people take your advice. So it was pleasing to learn that the FTC asked for -- and got -- approval to extend the period by two weeks in which it will evaluate Google's (GOOG) proposed purchase of leading mobile ad network AdMob. According to the NYT, the FTC asked for the extension:
... in part, to better understand the competitive effects of Apple's purchase of Quattro Wireless, an AdMob rival, and Apple's impending introduction of its new iAds mobile advertising system ...
Well, told you so. In a post last week, yours truly said that Apple's Quattro ownership, and its launch of iAds (Steve Jobs is shown demoing a spec iAd for Target above) for the iPhone and iPad starts to make:
Google's desire to have a significant presence in the mobile ad world not look so, well, antitrust-y. ... And then there's the device issue. While these ad networks certainly don't have to be specific to one mobile OS, doesn't it mean anything that so far, Google's Android OS hasn't set the world on fire the way the iPhone and iPad have?
It's impossible to know how, or if, the extension will affect the FTC's ruling on the AdMob deal, which, until last week, had been rumored to be going against Google. That said, maybe the FTC is finally realizing that there are way too many unknowns in this marketplace to go calling a Google and AdMob combination any kind of monopoly.

It should also be noted that it's not even entirely about Apple's (AAPL) mobile ad aspirations. This chart I've cribbed from IDC (via PaidContent) shows how dynamic the marketplace is. If you add up the 2009 revenues of all non Google/AdMob players above (not even including the 31 percent of the market designated "other), the total comes in at $139 million, while a combined Google/AdMob adds up to $59 million. Anecdotally, I'm also reminded of a comment I heard the other day at an Internet conference -- that there are little start-up mobile ad networks popping up all over the place that already rival what AdMob claimed in terms of its scope at the time Google announced the acquisition last year.

Note to the FTC: This mobile ad game is far from over. In fact, it's barely started.