Opinion Brief

Should Apple buy a stake in Twitter?

The gadget-maker is rumored to be interested in the social-media company that specializes in 140-character messages, and some say it's a match made in heaven

In the ever-shifting battles among titans of the tech industry, companies have often joined forces to make up for their own respective shortfalls, from Microsoft's search-engine partnership with Yahoo to Google's arrangements with Samsung and other cellphone manufacturers. Now, The New York Times reports that Apple recently talked to Twitter about investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the social messaging site, in a deal that would value Twitter at $10 billion. While subsequent reports say the discussions occurred some time ago and did not result in a deal, a Twitter-Apple alliance would certainly shake up the tech world, and potentially create a situation in which Twitter applications are pre-loaded onto your iPhone before the device even comes out of the box. Should Apple buy a stake in Twitter?

Yes. Apple needs a social-media platform: Apple's specialty is hardware, but it "can't pretend that social networking doesn't matter," says Harry McCracken at TIME. "Partnering up with an existing major social network, and maybe even owning part of it," is far preferable to "building its own mammoth social network from scratch." Facebook and Google are too competitive with Apple to make good partners, but Twitter would be a "worthwhile way for Apple to invest a tiny sliver of the billions it has in the bank." "Apple buying into Twitter: Neither likely nor implausible"

And they complement each other really well: Apple should "never buy Twitter" outright, says Philip Elmer-DeWitt at CNN Money. But a stake in Twitter is "the kind of deal I can see making sense for both parties." For just "a couple days worth of iPhone revenue," Apple could buy Twitter's cooperation and integration to a degree that Apple never could with a competitor like Facebook. And the cash injection would help Twitter "postpone a little longer the day it has to junk up its elegant 140-character messaging service with a flood of intrusive advertising." It's a win-win. "Apple buy Twitter? No way."

But Apple has a poor record in social media: "For the most part, Apple has flubbed its major social media efforts and shows little other signs that social networking is in the company's DNA," says Erika Morphy at Forbes. In 2010, for instance, Apple rolled out Ping, a social-media component to iTunes that has been an unmitigated disaster. "Let's hope it ends there and Apple doesn't begin to fancy itself a possible venue for a social network." "Let's hope an Apple stake in Twitter doesn't mean it takes another stab at social networking"

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