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Apple / Twitter

Apple Officials Said to Consider Stake in Twitter
Published: July 27, 2012 12 Comments
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If an investment were to happen, Twitter’s chief financial officer, Ali Rowghani, would be instrumental in cementing the deal. Mr. Rowghani joined Twitter in early 2010 after nine years at Pixar Animation Studios, where he worked directly with Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s co-founder.
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Ties between Apple and Twitter are strengthening at a time of great uncertainty in the mobile market. Battle lines that seemed clear just a year ago are rapidly blurring as companies push into new areas of the market and clash with former allies.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, is said to be working on developing its own phone or core software for phones. Similarly, Google acquired Motorola Mobility last year and is now in the business of building phones.

The jumbled landscape reflects the rising significance of mobile, as more consumers neglect their desktops in favor of computing that fits in their pockets. Eager to win on such a critical battleground, technology giants are rushing to control both hardware and software on mobile devices.

The turf wars have fortified alliances and pushed companies to choose sides. Apple’s dealings with Twitter, for instance, began after its relationship with Facebook soured. In 2010, the company was eager to integrate its Ping service with Facebook, but discussions broke down. Mr. Jobs, the Apple chief executive who died last year, told the technology news site AllThingsD that Facebook had demanded “onerous terms that we could not agree to.”

Apple, which had spent months preparing to hook Facebook into iOS, its mobile operating system, swiftly reworked it for Twitter. One former Twitter employee, who described Twitter as the “lucky mistress” in this chain of events, said the partnership was essentially “handed to Twitter on a silver platter.” Ping, in the end, never caught on with users.

For Twitter, the union has proved fruitful. The mobile integration, introduced in late 2011, made it easy for iPhone and iPad users to sling photos, maps and other media directly to Twitter. So far they have generated some 10 billion tweets. And, in recent months, Apple has also incorporated Twitter features into its operating system for computers as well as its advertising service.

The relationship with Apple is so prized at Twitter that the company assigned a vice president, Kevin Thau, to work with Apple full time, according to an Apple employee who asked not to be named.

Apple’s relationship with Facebook has started to thaw. Last month, the company said it would add Facebook features to the next version of its mobile operating system. Still, the two companies are wary of each other. Facebook, which recently began its own “App Center” and is intent on bulking up its mobile revenue, is likely to continue to bump up against Apple.

Analysts are concerned that Apple may fall behind in mobile software because of increasing competition and a lack of social features. And as Apple has shown, software and content can make or break hardware sales.

“Content was a key pillar in the success of the iPhone,” said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC. He noted that consumer loyalty to the iTunes library, which many used to store their music collections, helped lift early sales of the phone. “Down the road, social engagement may dictate how consumers spend,” Mr. Hilwa said.

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