As one of the very few big tech companieswithout a Twitter account, Apple may seem like an odd choice for the rumor mill to pair with Twitter.
But that’s exactly what’s being whispered in the tech press, and frankly, the marriage might just be fate.
Citing “people briefed on the matter” at Apple, the New York Times‘ Evelyn M. Rusli and Nick Bilton reported Friday that Apple is considering taking a stake in Twitter and making a strategic investment “in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” The Wall Street Journal, speaking with other insiders, followed up with its own piece confirming the rumors, and adding there were talks that took place about a year ago. UPDATE: Reuters has released its own report citing its own ” sources familiar with the matter” countering the reports from theTimes and the Journal. Reuters’ Poornima Gupta and Jonathan Weber write that Apple and Twitter are “currently not in discussions on the mobile technology giant taking a stake in the popular social networking site,” adding, “It is unclear if the two companies talked about a deal in the past and at what level such discussions were held, but there are no current, formal talks between the companies on an investment or acquisition, the sources said.”
So Apple and Twitter, what are we to make of your potentially pending secret engagement, if reports of a blossoming romance are accurate? Perhaps this is a match made in heaven between two like-minded partners. Or perhaps both are settling for the last firm that will have them.
First, let’s try to be optimists. Perhaps Apple and Twitter are soulmates because both value sleekness and simplicity, the former with its glossy lines of iProducts and the latter with its effortless 140-character bursts of thought. They also both hold something for each other: Apple has wads of cash ($117 billion to be precise) and Twitter has social network-savvy, which Apple hasn’t been able to master.
“We think of them as a company that our company looks up to,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said of Apple in a recent interview, according to the Times. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has also been cited as a potential heir to Steve Jobs’ throne. Similarly, Apple seemed more than comfortable deeply integrating Twitter into the iOS 5, an operating system of the iPhone released last year. Apple’s attempts at social networking, such as Ping, a music-oriented social network Apple launched in 2010, and Find Friends, a location-based social networking service, haven’t been huge hits, leaving Apple without a strong social offering.
But it could also be argued that Apple only partnered with Twitter because it couldn’t come to terms on iOS 5 integration with another social network, Facebook. (Apple and Facebook kissed and made up for iOS 6, however.) And therein lies the other half of this love story: Twitter and Apple in a certain way may be the only firms left for each other to form a lasting marriage.
Consider the other big-name consumer tech brands flush with cash that Twitter could have shacked up with. Social rival Facebook is a no-go as the two have a healthy animosity for one another (shown by Twitter’s latest move of killing the “Find a Friend” feature on Facebook’s acquisition Instagram this week). Similarly, it butts heads with Google on its social network, Google+. And Microsoft’s already wedded to a social network, have plunked down $240 million for a share in Facebook in 2007. Microsoft also purchased Skype last year, and Yammer, a social networking service for businesses, earlier this year.
And there isn’t a tech company Apple hasn’t made an enemy (or at least frenemy) out of. Among potential social partners, Facebook pissed off Apple for the “onerous terms”it demanded for a partnership on Ping, as AllThingsD reported Steve Jobs as saying. And Google+? Forget it. The companies compete too aggressively on smartphones and other hardware (and maybe in the future, heads-up displays and search).
But whether you believe in love at first sight or think marriages of convenience can last, Apple and Twitter together makes some degree of sense. Will they go through with investment? Only time will time.