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Facebook & Instagram
While not anywhere near on the "WTF" scale as Zynga's or HP's acquisition blunders in the last year, the $1B acquisition of the photo sharing service Instagram by Facebook is still somewhat questionable and it remains to be seen if the merger ends up being a successful one.
On the surface it seems that Facebook entering the photo sharing space was a good idea, but whether they needed to spend a billion dollars to do something they probably could have coded in-house for far, far less money and gotten probably instantaneous market share on is another matter entirely.
Ten months after the acquisition, Instagram is still an independent app download from the main Facebook app on both the iOS and Android platform, and the sharing of the photos on user timelines is anything but seamless, so the integration of the company's assets have been questionable.
But code integration isn't the worst of this merger's problems. Facebook has recently cut off the use of Instagram's "cards" API to Twitter, which has enraged many of Instagram's core user base that actively uses both services. Kerfuffles (and about-faces) over Instagram's terms of service and photo usage rights by Facebook haven't helped the company's image either.
Apple & Lala
With most of the company mergers listed in this piece, although many of them turned out horribly, you can at least say that the intentions of the company doing the acquisition had the objective of actually integrating the assets of the company being acquired and making money with it.
I mean, this is usually why you acquire another company, right?
Apple bought music streaming service Lala.com back in December of 2009 for about $80M. If you recall, Lala was doing some innovative things around pricing and service offierings in the music streaming business, and our own Ed Bott picked it as his favorite among iTunes alternatives in his article written in April of 2009.
Well, Lala was being so innovative that it scared the hell out of Apple, so the company simply decided to throw its money at the upstart just to take it off the market and to kill the product and service.
No further development, no integration into iTunes, nada.
While the financial impact of Lala's death is far smaller than any of the mergers and acquisitions listed in this rogue's gallery, it is by far the worst and most malicious case of corporate merger infanticide I have ever seen to date.
CISCO & Linksys
Cisco entered the heavily commoditized consumer small office and home office market back in 2003, by purchasing LINKSYS for $500M.
Linksys, once the dominant player in the space has since been joined by NETGEAR, D-LINK, ASUS and numerous other vendors making nearly identical products, not to mention that many service providers and telcos have also issued their own integrated OEM Wi-Fi routers/residental gateways included as part of basic service offerings.
Linksys as a result fell on hard times -- first being somewhat neglected by its parent company Cisco in the last several years, releasing extremely commoditized and less-reliable products.
Various experimentations with "router design of the month" and heavy product overlap had produced a lousy generation of home routers by 2010, which required a complete re-design in 2011. Arguably this did improve the quality of LINKSYS's products. But it was too late.
While LINKSYS did eventually eventually solve its engineering issues, Cisco could not make the consumer products division profitable when compared to its enterprise networking equipment. It sold it to PC accessories giant BELKIN in 2013, for an undisclosed sum.
LINKSYS is poised to make a comeback with some innovative products this year such as the "retro" WRT1900AC Open Source-capable router. We're really looking forward to its stewardship under BELKIN.