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How much longer for tech's acquisition addiction?

Everybody's seemingly for sale these days, but some companies may be trying to compensate for a lost ability to innovate.

Time was when creative technology companies could rely upon their own people to generate a steady hit parade. Where appropriate, management would send its M&A mavens out to fill a gap in the company product line by looking for an acquisition. But for the most part, the successful companies turned out homegrown products.

That's less and less the case. The latest example being Monday's announcement by Yahoo that it would pay $350 million to buy Zimbra, which makes an e-mail service for businesses. (Earlier this month, Yahoo spent more than $300 million to acquire a data analytics company called BlueLithium.) The timing was interesting as it almost coincides with Google's completion of its earlier announced acquisition of Postini, an e-mail management company.

These are just the highlights. Earlier this summer, Microsoft completed a $6 billion blockbuster bid for Aquantive, hoping to buy more success in the online advertising field. Intel has announced it plans to buy Havok, a developer of a physics engine, for a reported $110 million. (And who can forget Acer's move to gobble up whatever's left of Gateway?)

It would take too long to list the entire roster. Suffice it to say that the dealmakers are living in M&A Nirvana with big tech companies still flush with cash. Presented with a juicy offer, most takeover targets--Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook being the notable exception--seem perfectly happy to take the money and sign on the line which is dotted.

All part of the normal woof and warp of the computer industry. Everybody's seemingly for sale these days, so why not? But some companies are trying to spend their way past a lost ability to innovate. Hooked on an acquisition jones, what happens when the good times end and they're forced to fend for themselves? Don't be surprised if they, too, wind up being acquired.