Apple acquires Twitter analytics firm Topsy

Apple has acquired social media analytics company Topsy in a deal reportedly worth around $200m, it was revealed Tuesday. With one of the few companies with privileged access to all of Twitter’s data now in Apple’s arsenal, the move could signal a renewed push into the enterprise as well as bolstering its consumer proposition.

Apple notoriously keeps quiet on its strategy and rarely discusses its acquisitions. And while Topsy has not responded to requests for comment Apple spokespeople confirmed the deal, saying: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” Details are light but Wall Street analysts have suggested a price tag of around $200m, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Topsy is a social media analytics company and one of the few with privileged access to all of the data generated on Twitter since 2006. It helps businesses analyse trends on the popular social media service, and by identifying trends and influencers helps these businesses keep tabs on the effectiveness of their – and their competitors’ social media strategies. The service is very popular among journalists, according to the company.

It’s not entirely clear what Apple has in mind for Topsy’s technology. Some have suggested that the company could integrate the technology with iTunes Radio, using Topsy’s technology to help make suggestions about what users should listen to given the tastes of influencers in the space and social media chatter more broadly, or to improve the effectiveness of its iAd platform. Apple has previously attempted to strike similar deals directly with social media giants to a similar end: before launching Ping, its iTunes-focused social media play that soon fell into disuse and was later discontinued, the company unsuccessfully tried to partner with Facebook in a bid to link it with iTunes. Since, the company has driven integration of both Facebook and Twitter in its mobile and desktop OSs.

But while most eyes are focused on how Apple plans to shake up the consumer market next, it’s also possible that the tech giant could use Topsy’s technology for enterprise applications, where Apple is starting to make headway.

The company has taken its flagship productivity suite iWork into the cloud (though it took some flak for removing key features found on its on-premise solutions) and has for a long time managed a fairly comprehensive cloud service long before it was cool to call it “cloud”, first as .Mac, then as MobileMe, and finally iCloud.

Apple’s iPhones and iPads are making significant inroads in businesses; it’s also where the company focuses most on delivering enterprise-friendly functionality. According to Good Technology 72 per cent of mobile devices activated in enterprises in Q3 were iOS devices (up from 69 per cent in Q2), compared with 27 per cent Android and one per cent Windows Mobile. And according to Strategy Analytics, iCloud has 27 per cent of the US cloud storage market, a ten per cent lead on Dropbox (which also began as a consumer play) in both companies’ biggest market.

Twitter, which is accessed on mobile platforms over 60 per cent of the time according to the company, is often used to inform real-time marketing strategies. The service is playing a leading role in the big data frenzy, though many enterprises – particularly small businesses, where Apple has gained significant traction – lack the sophisticated hardware or software expertise needed to set up and manage these projects.

This is where Apple could deploy Topsy’s technology, driving further integration between its operating systems and social media in ways that could capture the hearts of small businesses that lack the capital to invest in what are often expensive endeavours. It would allow the company to build on its mobile platforms in enterprises big and small, and deliver highly sought after features to these businesses. It could even be integrated with Safari in much the same way Google has moved to integrate Google Analytics in its Chrome ecosystem, which has enticed third-party plugin developers to expand its social media tracking capabilities.

If implemented correctly, Apple could make its first foray into the big data space by replicating the same attributes that seem to make its hardware products and cloud services so popular in consumer markets and increasingly, enterprises: seamless integration, idiot-proof UI, and a fine balance between power and simplicity. Perhaps even a consumerisation of big data is in the offing?

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