AOL Rally Up Buy Underscores Mobile-First Strategy

AOL acquires mobile app maker Rally Up in the company's latest move to pursue its mobile-first strategy as it seeks to challenge Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter on the Web.

AOL is betting big on mobile, in case the company's July revamp of its mobile platform around Google's Android operating system wasn't a clue.

The company has purchased mobile application provider Rally Up for an undisclosed sum. TechCrunch said the Rally Up deal was worth $10 million.

Rally Up makes two mobile applications, Rally Up and FacePlant. Rally Up is a location-based service competing with services such as Loopt, Brightkite, Foursquare and Gowalla.

The Rally Up application, a minor iPad hit, lets users share text and photos and send messages to each other in the context of a private, location-aware microblog service.

FacePlant, which Apple is reviewing for inclusion in its App Store, lets users see which of their friends are available for video chat on the iPhone 4 FaceTime application. Apple and its supporters have great expectations for FaceTime.

Rally Up's nine employees, including founder Sol Lipman, will be based in AOL's new West Coast office in Palo Alto, Calif.

There the team will work closely with David Temkin, the new vice president of mobile at AOL, to "build mobile-first experiences," AOL said in a statement.

"Mobile-first" is essentially AOL's push to create mobile versions of its desktop and Web offerings, as well as new products that launch first on mobile devices.

AOL ushered in this approach in July, launching two Android applications and opening a new smartphone portal and mobile Website.

The Rally Up team will focus on building new mobile applications for a company trying to remake itself as an Internet company along the lines of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter.

All of these companies have bet heavily on mobile applications served on smartphones and tablet computers. Temkin said he believes the new hires have the talent to help in this endeavor.

"Within the last year, the Rally Up team has demonstrated its keen understanding of the way that people want to use their mobile devices to interact, share and better communicate, and of the tools necessary to address those needs," Temkin said.

"We are thrilled to have such a talented group of mobile innovators join AOL, especially given the rapid evolution of this space."

Rapid is perhaps an understatement where smartphones and tablets are concerned. Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones, while there are more than 200,000 Android smartphones shipping per day.

Moreover, Apple has shipped well over 3 million iPad units since the tablet's April launch and companies such as Samsung, Dell and Archos are cranking out Android-based tablets for the holiday season.

AOL, newly armed with the Rally Up talent, clearly hopes to be among the more popular application providers for these devices.