NYT: Apple talking to Twitter about investing hundreds of millions of dollars

By , Jul 27, 2012

Apple has apparently been in talks with Twitter officials in recent months about making a possible investment in the micro-blogging platform, reports The New York Times. Described as “a strategic investment”, it could value Twitter at more than ten billions.

Apple’s attempts at social were limited thus far. Its social thing for music, Ping, will likely be discontinued with the next major iTunes update. That promised Facebook integration in Ping had been pulled last minute was blamed on “onerous terms that we could not agree to”, as Jobs put it. Nonetheless, Apple has opted to partner with both Twitter and Facebook to support their services throughout iOS and OS X.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal says Apple talked to Twitter about this a year ago, claiming no immediate acquisition is in the cards.

Go past the break for the latest…

Evelyn M. Rusli and Nick Bilton filed this story with The New York Times (NYT), citing the obligatory “people familiar with the matter”:

Apple, which has stumbled in its efforts to get into social media, has talked with Twitter in recent months about making a strategic investment in it, according to people briefed on the matter.

The Wall Street Journal followed up by noting that the talks NYT is referring to are more than a year old now:

Apple Inc. held discussions with Twitter Inc. more than a year ago about taking a strategic investment in the short-messaging service, according to a person familiar with the talks.

Also this:

People familiar with the matter said there are no current formal investment or acquisition discussions between the companies.

Nevertheless, a potential deal between Apple and Twitter could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, NYT writers explain:

Apple has considered an investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars, one that could value Twitter at more than $10 billion, up from an $8.4 billion valuation last year, these people said. They declined to be named because the discussions were private.

Perhaps Apple could help with Twitter server issues which caused two outages recently? The report goes on to note that Apple talking to Twitter by no means suggests the deal is anywhere close to being finalized.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo hinted as much in a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, saying his company has “truckload of money in the bank”, or about $600 million, meaning ”we are going to remain private as long as we want”.

He also said this of Apple in a recent interview, per NYT:

Those guys are a great partner. We think of them as a company that our company looks up to.

The report concludes that a strategic investment in Twitter “would be one of Mr. Cook’s most important strategic decisions as chief executive”, especially in light of the Google-Facebook rivalry and Apple’s erratic relationship with Mark Zuckerberg’s popular social network.

If you ask me, culture-wise Twitter could be the perfect fit for Apple. The two companies share similar startup philosophy and Twitter could enhance the Apple brand due to its sheer popularity and importance as the most rapidly evolving media channel.

Besides, Apple fans seem to be predominantly loving Twitter. The micro-blogging service saw a trifold rise in the number of iOS sign ups since iOS 5, Apple said announcing iOS 6 at its developers conference last month. Apple users users sent ten billion tweets from their iOS devices, posting as much as 47 percent of all images shared on Twitter.

We first heard whispers of a potential Apple-Twitter deal back in May of 2009, with then TechCrunch‘s Michael Arrington reporting that Apple was in late stage negotiations to buy Twitter and was hoping to break the news at WWDC in June 2009. Arrington pegged the purchase price in the neighborhood of $700 million in cash.

By the way, notice the difference between Arrington’s rumored acquisition and NYT’s asserted investment. If Apple is to invest in Twitter, it won’t be a first for the company. Back in 1999, the Mac maker made a $12.5 million investment in Akamai to use its infrastructure as the primary content delivery network for QuickTime media.

Apple has partnered with Twitter on social sharing with last October’s release of iOS 5. The NYT story also describes how Facebook’s failure to reach an agreement with Apple has made possible a Twitter deal as an unintended consequence of sorts.

Apple, which had spent months preparing to hook Facebook into iOS, its mobile operating system, swiftly reworked it for Twitter.

One former Twitter employee, who described Twitter as the “lucky mistress” in this chain of events, said the partnership was essentially “handed to Twitter on a silver platter.”

Apple has deepened its relationship with Twitter with this week’s release of OS X Mountain Lion which comes with built-in Twitter sharing for photos, statuses, articles and so forth.

The iPhone maker has of course built Facebook sharing deep inside the bowels of iOS 6 and is set to flip the switch on Facebook integration in Mountain Lion this fall. Apple is actually still actively promoting the feature on its website (“post straight to Facebook”).

However, a notice was quietly added to the What’s New page when Mountain Lion launched, simply stating “Facebook integration coming this fall”. Facebook integration was also omitted from OS X chief Craig Federighi’s preview of Mountain Lion at WWDC.

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt noted that “this time, Facebook is reportedly taking its commitment to Apple more seriously”, though “Apple seems to be taking nothing for granted”.

The speculation among developers is that Apple and Facebook agreed for reasons unknown to wait for the release of iOS 6, also scheduled for this fall.

I’d say that perhaps with this rumored Twitter acquisition Apple sent Facebook a message. Or was it the other way round, that Facebook deliberately postponed integration with Mountain Lion on its end, knowing Apple was cozying up to Twitter?

What do you guys make of all this brouhaha?

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  • JamesR624

    It’s not delayed. They’re waiting for the release of iOS 6 to release Facebook integration to all platforms simultaneously.