Apple’s Cook was cryptic about Facebook, but the companies could gain a lot from each other

May 30, 2012
Tech

Apple and Facebook haven’t had the best of relationships in the past. They have tried and more or less failed to work together on Facebook integration into Apple’s products, but that doesn’t mean they’ll never try again. “Stay tuned,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the potential of Apple’s working with Facebook for greater integration […]

Apple and Facebook haven’t had the best of relationships in the past. They have tried and more or less failed to work together on Facebook integration into Apple’s products, but that doesn’t mean they’ll never try again.

“Stay tuned,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the potential of Apple’s working with Facebook for greater integration of the 100 million-strong social network into iOS. Speaking during an interview at the 10th All Things Digital Conference, Cook in fact used the phrase “stay tuned” repeatedly when referring to Facebook.

Could that mean that Apple and Facebook really might choose to work together? It wouldn’t be unprecedented. The two tried to integrate for Apple’s Ping service in iTunes, but had something of a falling out in the aftermath. When iOS 5 rolled out, Apple integrated social networking tools into the software – but with Twitter, Facebook’s rival.

Much to gain by working together

Still, while Facebook and Apple might not need each other, per se, they could certainly gain a lot from working together. It’s no secret that the most popular, most used apps on Apple’s devices are the mobile versions of Facebook – and 100 million worldwide users on Facebook is nothing to sneeze at, either. On the other side, Facebook is hurting badly in the mobile department. More users access Facebook through mobile devices and apps than any other means, and that’s the avenue through which Facebook makes the least amount of money. Clearly, the social network needs to make a change there.

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Facebook has been upping its iOS presence of late, too. It has added four new iOS apps in less than a year to its formerly thin repertoire. The biggest and most impressive is Facebook for iPad, but there’s also Facebook Pages Manager, Facebook Messenger and Facebook Camera, all of which are relatively new and all of which bring increased Facebook functionality to iOS. There’s also the expansion of Facebook’s mobile presence with its App Center feature, which allows users to search for apps and purchase them on iTunes.

Working together could bring a lot of benefits to both companies. Facebook would gain a more powerful mobile presence that Apple could help it monetize, while Apple would gain more leverage in bringing Facebook users to iOS, and could potentially help to expand Facebook’s user base for iOS features.

A cool relationship warms up?

It’s a lot of speculation, however, and while Cook said the relationship between Apple and Facebook is strong, it’s still probably a little cool. But the fact that Cook didn’t shut the door on the potential of an Apple/Facebook collaboration might be telling. Not to read too much into his comments, but “stay tuned” is an interesting phrase to choose when answering a question about whether you’re working with another company.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Apple and Facebook might be working on something together. It might not be a fully Facebook’d iOS 6, but it’s definitely conceivable that the two companies are trying to see how much they might be able to help each other. Even if Facebook goes forward with its rumored Android phone, and even if the collaborations between Apple and Facebook stay relatively small, they still seem like they could greatly benefit users of both companies’ products. It’s almost silly for them not to work together, at least in some capacity.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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