There's been a lot of speculation this week, everywhere from The Atlantic to Hipster Runoff, that Apple is planning to buy Facebook. I'm pretty skeptical about this possibility, but nonetheless, it frightens me. No two companies I can think of have inspired so much cultish devotion among millennials, who rank brand loyalty up there with religion and ethnicity in terms of personal identification. If Facebook and Apple joined forces, world domination couldn't be far behind. And that would be a scary world, a world with only rounded corners and far too many email notifications.
Speculation began on Monday when Steve Jobs made intimations during an earnings call that Apple was poised to spend some of its $51 billion in cash on acquisitions. Or, as he put it, they have "a unique opportunity" to take advantage of "one or more very strategic opportunities." How opportune. Peter Kafka at All Things Digital writes "I don't remember Jobs ever signaling his desire to go shopping quite as openly as this before." Why assume Facebook is among the potential opportunities? In part because Jobs and Zucks have been seen hanging out.
Is there a stronger case to be made here? Apple might be interested in Facebook because they are a viable competitor to Google, Kafka and others point out. John Brownlee at Cult of Mac writes that "Buying Facebook would make Apple a credible threat to Google as the de facto author of the future Internet's Manifest Destiny … and pay off big in advertising money down the line." However, Brownlee doesn't see this as likely:
My guess is that Zuckerberg is in this for the long haul. Either Facebook topples Google as the most important internet company out there, or it becomes the next MySpace. In his own way, Zuckerberg is just as much as a visionary as Jobs: I doubt simply cashing out for the money is really in Zuckerberg's cards.
Tom Kaneshige of NetworkWorld points out that the two companies – and their founders – have "a lot in common": "Both are innovative companies with a rebellious history and, critically, are icons of their respective generations." I bet they like some of the same music too. Having stuff in common may be reason enough to go on a first date, but is it reason enough to undertake a huge merger? I doubt it.
Darrell Etherington at Business Week doesn't see the acquisition as likely either:
It would take a huge chunk of Apple's cash, then prove a massive distraction from its main lines of business. Facebook's contribution to Cupertino's core interests would be negligible. I can see Jobs wanting to acquire some social networking IP to bolster its efforts with Ping, but buying Facebook to accomplish this would be like targeting a fly with a nuclear bomb.
The ALT REPORT at Hipster Runoff also asks some important questions, like "Do u think Apple+FB could be 'more relevant' / important 2 society than Google?" and "Do u think Stevie and Mark just bought some escorts and had crazy billionaire sex with them?" I'd say yes to both questions, but it's hard for me to imaging Steve Jobs having sex.
So if it's not buying Facebook, what is Apple up to lately? At its "Back to the Mac" event on Wednesday, Apple announced some developments, none of them as exciting/terrifying as a Facebook buyout. Among them:
- A new MacBook Air
- New version of Mac OS
- A new Mac app store
- Blah blah blah
Pretty dull compared to world domination.
In other news, Gizmodo reports that in the last quarter Apple sold more iPads than Macs. If it weren't already obvious, this just cements that Apple has really become a gadget company, not a computer company. And that makes sense, because Apple's core customers love to signal outwardly that they're Mac people, and that's easier to do with a more portable device. With iPads and iPhones, you can show everyone your allegiance on the train and on the street, not just in the coffee shop or your dorm cafeteria. Plus, gadgets break, get lost or stolen, and look dated more frequently than computers, so there's a shorter sales cycle. That's lots and lots of money to be made off identity-starved millennials!
More Web Marketing Highlights This Week
Dalton Caldwell, the founder of imeem and picplz (and an old friend of mine!), gave a great talk at Startup School about the challenges that music startups face. You can watch the whole talk at TechCrunch.
SEO Book's PeterD says that in the battle between Google and Facebook, Google is the clear winner, because FB hasn't found a way to translate (many, many) viewers into revenue. The difference, he says, is that people already go to Google ready to make transactions, but people go to Facebook to socialize.
Our friends at the Dojo have launched a new search news site, Search News Central.
Jonathan Mendez lists 10 "intent triggers" for digital media, or elements that actually create intent you can then monetize, such as visual design and incentives.
Lisa Barone talks about why linkbait "doesn't work as a marketing strategy."
SEOmoz offers five quick Google Analytics hacks.
On SEO ROI, John McElborough explains how to leverage long-tail keywords in five easy steps.
An Eloqua report finds that contrary to predictions, email marketing is actually growing.
Have a good weekend!