Google has confirmed that it quietly purchased 3D user interface software company BumpTop last month, an acquisition that has industry watchers anxious to see how the buy fits into Google's businesses -- particularly its Android mobile and Chrome operating system efforts.
BumpTop's software replaces the traditional Mac or Windows desktop with a slick, 3D interface, but Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) may be more interested in the leveraging the software for other platforms.
A message on BumpTop's home page elaborated only briefly on the deal and its implications.
"Despite our change in strategy, we remain as passionate as ever about helping shape the future of computing!" the company said, adding that it will no longer sell BumpTop for Windows and Mac nor plan any further updates to the products. It's also going to be closing the door shortly on its free offering.
"For the next week, we're keeping BumpTop Free available for download at bumptop.com/download to give BumpTop fans one last chance to grab a copy."
For the time being, details remain scant on what Google intends with its new purchase -- leaving plenty of room for industry observers to speculate.
The news comes just a few weeks ahead of the annual Google I/O developer's conference, which could be the setting for the search giant to reveal its plans for BumpTop. While Google is not in the desktop computer OS and user-interface market, it is working with leading hardware makers on a new crop of "Pro" netbooks that will be powered by the company's Chrome operating system. Google has said these Web-oriented netbooks would sport bigger screens and faster processors than the current generation.
There has also been speculation that Google will produce its own Chrome OS-branded tablet to compete with Apple's (NASDQ: AAPL) iPad. A slick new OS could help spark interest in a tablet as well as the range of mobile devices based on Google's Android software.
Analyst Ben Bajarin, who met with BumpTop's founders prior to the purchase, said there are a lot of ways for Google to leverage the company's technology.
"I can see Google moving to use this for a Chrome UI and potentially for cloud-based applications," Bajarin, analyst with Creative Strategies told InternetNews.com. "Lots of files are going into the cloud, and you look at something like Google Docs -- with a simple file structure that's just a list -- this opens up a lot more options, including touch."
With BumpTop, Bajarin said Google could offer a multi-touch interface like the iPad's that lets users access and organize stacks of photos with simple finger or touch input.
The Bumptop Desktop
"There's some real potential there in line with what Google wants, a touch UI," he said.
Wellington Financial analyst Mark McQueen noted the BumpTop purchase in a blog post over the weekend, which included a link to a March 2007 post also touting the software's potential back when BumpTop's product was first being demoed.
McQueen also noted BumpTop had, until recently, had been a Microsoft BizSpark partner.
For the time being, Google itself is remaining mum on the topic.
"I can confirm this -- we're happy to welcome the BumpTop team to Google," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "But we don't have any details to share."