Mathew Ingram wonders — apparently based on some thoughts by Barry Ritholtz — whether Apple should spend $10B and buy Twitter:
Mathew Ingram, Should Apple buy Twitter?
Apple’s best effort by far at adding those kinds of social elements came when the company integrated Twitter at a deep — and for Apple, a fairly radical — level into the operating system on the iPhone and iPad (and even into its new desktop OS, OS-X Mountain Lion). Never before had Apple built support for a third-party service into its devices and software in such a fundamental way. This helped fuel rumors about an Apple acquisition, just as Ritholtz and others have used it to justify such a deal: if Apple wants to integrate Twitter so deeply, why not just acquire it so that it has full control?
The fact that Apple likes to control things from end-to-end is well known, which is just one of the reasons why the deep Twitter integration was a bit of a surprise. But does it really need to own Twitter in order to get the benefits of that integration? I don’t think so. It can get all the positive aspects of Twitter support without having to own the company — and it doesn’t have to worry about the hassle of maintaining a third-party service that is used for a wide variety of different purposes that Apple has no real interest in.
Not only that, but buying Twitter could actually harm Apple’s attempts to integrate more social aspects into its devices, because it would make it even less likely that the company would ever strike a similar deal with Facebook — something it has tried to do a number of times. It could be that Facebook has no intention of ever partnering with Apple, and the two may wind up becoming adversaries as their interests converge, but acquiring Twitter would likely remove any chance of the two ever working together in even a small way.
So, Mathew comes down pretty strongly on the negative side of a possible acquisition, but omits the long-range view: the next generation of operating systems will be social at the core.
Most of today’s operating systems are still based on 1990 thinking. They are based on WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointer). They don’t know about the Web, so users have to move back and forth from their local store of docs and files to the cloud, a thousand times a day. And the biggest surprise of the Web has been the rise of social, which is supported on our computers through apps.
All of these limitations will be attacked in new operating systems, which will be web-aware, post-WIMP, and inherently social.
Apple is headed into a battle with Google, Facebook, and maybe Microsoft (Windows 8 looks pretty good), and one of the primary areas of contention will be building social primitives into the operating environment.
Google will build its social architecture in Android. Facebook will become more than just an app platform: it will become a mobile OS. Windows 9 or some future version will incorporate some approach to social. And iOS and Mac OS X have started to move this way by including Twitter in the mix, as a fundamental social protocol.
Apple should pay the $10B for Twitter, and make it into the social layer of its OSs, and as the social framework of its apps. For example, Ping in iTunes could be rewired to rely on Twitter, fixing its design as Barry Ritholz points out, and future social TV and second screen apps could be based on Twitter, as well, which makes sense because Twitter is the leading second screen app today. The coming battle for social TV will be hugely important, and Twitter really positions Apple in that space.
So, Mathew is being too conservative, because he thinks Apple may want to ‘work with’ Facebook in the future. But that can’t be where Apple is headed.