What Does Apple Inc. Want From Topsy?
Quick show of hands: How many of you actually used Ping?
In case you don't recall, Ping was Apple's ( AAPL ) valiant effort to enter the world of social media by way of a music recommendation service through iTunes. And the reason you might not remember it is because it never caught on, went largely unsupported, and closed two years later as a colossal failure.
It's been over a year since Ping's crash and burn, and one would think Apple would steer clear of social media altogether following such a flagrant swing and a miss. And yet, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the company has just purchased the social analytics firm Topsy for $200 million.
Topsy specializes in parsing Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ) data and has logged over 425 billion tweets since 2006 to analyze trends, topics, and campaigns -- yet another very curious buyout for Apple in recent weeks.
Less than a month since it acquired PrimeSense, a company specializing in 3-D motion-sensing technology, Apple appears to be venturing into uncharted territories -- or at least ones in which it fell short of success. So while Minyanville hedged a few guesses as to why Apple would want to acquire PrimeSense (see What Will Apple Do With Its Latest (Rumored) Acquisition? ), what might Apple want from Topsy?
Topsy's data and algorithms could be put to great use in Apple's App and iTunes Stores, boosting relevancy in search results by pushing the apps that are more frequently mentioned on Twitter to the top of the list and onto the home page. Apple had difficulty improving its discovery model in the iTunes Store when it acquired the app search and discovery platform Chomp nearly two years ago, so this might be a means to fix that fix.
But this all might go even deeper.
Apple could very well use Topsy's data to cater to specific users and recommend apps via the App and iTunes Stores based on keywords and phrases that they have tweeted. For that matter, it might even start curating more relevant iTunes Radio ads and iAds to users based on their interests and hobbies, thereby increasing revenue across the company's ad platforms. It also might try taking a cue from Google ( GOOG ) Now's ability to know the information you need before you ask and upgrade Siri into a virtual assistant that's more knowledgeable about a user's daily life.
At any rate, it's unlikely Apple bought Topsy simply for its Twitter log. But what it wants to do with that data and how it aims to implement that information into its products is as mysterious as its assumption we'd ever want to use Ping.
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