After a string of small acquisitions, Google
Bloomberg is reporting that the world's leading search engine is closing in on what may be a $1 billion deal to buy ITA Software.
That's not a household name, but odds are that you've leaned on the travel software's handiwork in the past. Kayak, Orbitz Worldwide
ITA doesn't just scour for competitive rates. It's also the in-house solution for many air carriers, including American Airlines parent AMR
Earlier this month, Fast Company recognized ITA as one of this year's "Top 10 Most Innovative Transportation Companies."
Three unidentified sources are telling Bloomberg that Google and ITA are in acquisition talks, but what's in it for Big G? It rarely shells out this kind of money for a deal. YouTube, DoubleClick, and perhaps dMarc Broadcasting are the rare deals that have been valued this high, so Google had better have big plans for ITA beyond simply annoying Microsoft.
Many of Bing's early accolades after last year's launch were for its Bing Travel portal, which would sort through low airfares and predict which way ticket prices were heading. Google hasn't been much of a player in the travel space, but that's changing. It recently began experimenting by populating Google Maps queries with hotel rates. Snapping up ITA would turn Google into a travel titan overnight with the in-house resources to monetize its traffic even more efficiently.
Then again, let's not assume Google and ITA want to be together until we see them walking down the aisle. ITA can always get cold feet, and Google can grow gun-shy, especially the way its larger deals are likely to draw regulator scrutiny. Microsoft can always storm in with a more attractive offer, too.
Like volcanic ash in the European airspace, let's watch this closely until we're cleared for takeoff.
How do you book your travel? Are you using portals, going through deal publishers, or booking directly on your own? Share your experiences in the comments box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been booking travel online since the 1990s, but he doesn't own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.