If Apple Were To Go On A Buying Spree

by Christopher Paul on April 11, 2012

After reading about Instagram, I started thinking about the companies that Apple could buy to better compete against Google and Facebook in their respective areas of dominance (search and social networking). Sure, there is a lot that Apple does right. But they certainly need help in some areas. While they could build their way into it, buying a few companies would make the process go much faster. So without thinking of how much it would cost, I jotted down a list of companies that could complement Apple’s offerings and give its rivals a run for their money (no pun intended).

Vimeo: Vimeo is one of the first companies that come to mind as potential acquisition targets. They’re the best video site around. They fully support HTML5 – something that Apple championed early on (even getting Google to convert all their videos to that format for the iPhone launch). The site is designed beautifully, attracts great creative talent, and has all the privacy settings for sharing videos safely. They already have a paid option which Apple could fold into or use to enhance iCloud. If Apple wanted a video sharing site, Vimeo is the obvious choice.

Duck Duck Go: You might not have heard about Duck Duck Go. But after reading this, I hope you give them an honest shot as your default search engine. Like Apple, they take a very serious approach to your privacy. You can turn on or off redirects, force HTTPS, and even opt to not use your address bar for search parameters; for those not in the know, your search terms can be captured by the URL so even if you have SSL enabled, someone can figure out what you’re searching for just by looking at where your browser was pointed. You can also customize Duck Duck Go’s look and feel – it’s very flexible, too. You can even turn off ads if you want. I find their search results just as relevant as Google’s and the intelligence we’ve come to assume with their search is also available at Duck Duck Go. Duck Duck Go would go well to replace Google as the default search on iOS and it would be a great catch for Apple.

Square: While Google Wallet isn’t really doing anything right now, it certainly could. PayPal, Visa, and a few other companies are all vying for mobile transactions. Integrating Square into iOS – with or without NFC – would help cement Apple as the portable device for mobile business processing. Square is simple, it’s easy to use, it’s well designed – just like Apple’s products. The two would go well together.

I’m on the fence about Tumblr and Twitter. Both are great services but I don’t know if I could see Apple gaining much from buying them except preventing someone else from getting them. I don’t know if that’s a good reason to spend money on these pricey companies but if it meant keeping Google, Microsoft, or someone else from snapping them up, I’d support it. But I don’t know what to do about photo sharing.

Before the Facebook deal, I would have said Instagram. I might have said Flickr if Yahoo ever wanted to get rid of it. But I go back and forth between porting the Mac OS app Analog from Realmac Software to iOS or buying 500px and making an app for it. 500px is geared more towards professionals – like Flickr used to be. I’m not sure how well iPhone pictures would be received. But if the number one phone on Flickr could be the iPhone 4/4S, I’m sure it could be for 500px, too. But it has great content and might do well with Aperture integration. I’m not so keen on other iOS photo apps like Hipstamatic because I find them complicated to use – not like Instagram. Analog is easy to use on the desktop and if anyone could come up with an Instagram replacement, it’s Realmac.

I doubt any of this would actually happen. But if I ever had Tim Cook’s ear, I’d certainly want to plant the idea that Apple could easily buy some great products and services, integrate them into their OS/App ecosystems, and gain some much needed traction in video, search, mobile transactions, social networking, and photo sharing. This is my wish list for Apple acquisitions. And while I’d probably wish every one of these companies to stay independent and succeed on their own, I don’t want to risk them getting gobbled up by someone who’ll shut them down after six months.

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