There have already been too many predictions of why Apple bought Topsy. Everyone from Wall Street Journal to Inc. have weighed in on their opinions for why Topsy was bought by Apple, and yet, they are all missing the larger picture.
So far, this is what everyone that matters has said about the deal:
“It will help them better understand market trends, which will lead to making better products.”
My Opinion: Apple doesn’t need Topsy to do this. They already have a very very well paid and large team of people who watch market movements and make (so far, very accurate) predictions on where the market is moving.
“They bought Topsy to get access to a treasure-trove of Twitter data.”
My Opinion: Apple already has a wonderful working relationship with Twitter. This is evidenced by the fact that Twitter is the only social network deeply embedded into all of Apple’s OS platforms. I suspect, Apple already has access to the Twitter Firehose and its archives… and if they don’t, it wouldn’t take them long to get it from Twitter themselves.
“Buying Topsy will help Apple improve their recommendation engine for the App Store and Siri and compete with Google Now”
My Opinion: At its core, Topsy is a visualisation engine that can aggregate via APIs/ scrape social content and display it beautifully. It does not add up that Apple would invest in a company that does not have its core strength in analysis, especially considering that Topsy would have to reverse engineer a lot of its backend to be compatible to Apple’s data formats across the various App Stores, iCloud usage and Siri.
This scenario is as good as redeveloping the Topsy platform and renders their data visualisation engine useless based on the current way apps, podcasts, and music is recommended to users.
“Buying Topsy will make iTunes Radio Ads and iAds better”
My Opinion: Apple does not make its money from advertising. Even on the iAds platform, they partner with clients who have a minimum budget of $1 million to burn. I don’t believe they are looking to go after the advertising business. It is after all, a monopoly controlled by the WPP Group, whichever way you look at it.
“They want to take a dip into Social Analytics”
My Opinion: I am not even going to comment on this one. It is so outlandish, even the analyst who quoted it must still be laughing.
So what business could Apple have buying Topsy, a Social Media Analysis firm?
Those following Apple know they are building a better version of the Apple TV. There is also enough evidence to support that Second Screen Engagement is the highest on Twitter and that TV viewing habits are gradually shifting to be co-consumed with digital devices. Meaning, whilst watching a TV show today, more TV viewers are chatting with friends and writing their comments about a particular show online than ever before.
Apple owns their hardware ecosystem from where content can be consumed and created. They need something to tie-in both ends to make the entire experience richer for the end user.
While Topsy is very strong with Twitter data analytics, it can also be extended to aggregate/ scrape all Social Streams to come up with a really amazing Social TV experience.
In a future, not far from now, Apple users will be able to virtually watch and discuss TV shows in real-time with their friends irrespective of the location. Users will also know what content—and by this I mean all forms of video and audio content—is recommended by their friends and personalised to their tastes.
Apple has realised from the failure of Ping that it does not need to reinvent the wheel. People are already posting about their favourite audio/ video content on established social platforms. All it needs to do is find a way to analyse it and recommend solutions based on this data.