December 4, 2013

Is Apple getting more interested in social networks?

Apple has invested in a lot of industries, but social media has not generally been one of them. Apart from the short-lived Ping, which allowed iTunes users to share their favorite songs with friends, the company has left that particular specialty to others. But that may change.

According to a report in the New York Times, Apple has acquired Topsy Labs, a research company that studies how people interact on popular social networks like Twitter.

Topsy actually has the unique distinction of having indexed every tweet ever sent since Twitter was first launched. Currently, the company monitors and analyzes the millions of messages sent by users every day.

Why would Apple need such a service? So far, the company has been mum.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told the news source.

While Apple does not run its own social network, it does have an interest in monitoring new trends. Users of the App Store, for example, are familiar with how the program recommends new apps based on ones that users have downloaded in the past. It is possible that Apple could use new information gleaned from social network to improve these recommendations.

In addition, this research could also be used to determine what consumers think about new Apple products like the latest iPhone and the iPad.

Sometimes a technology acquisition leads to obvious results. Other times, it is more subtle. The benefits to Apple in this case may not be clear for some time, but that does not mean that the company doesn't have big plans.