Why Did Apple Buy A Social Media Analytics Company? Probably For Its Search Engine

Apple ios 7 search twitter on SiriScreenshotSiri could get better with Topsy

Apple has
acquired Topsy, a Twitter search and analytics company.

The price for the acquisition was initially reported at $US200 million, but Fortune’s Dan Primack says it was north of $US225 million. At that price, it would be the seventh biggest acquisition in Apple’s history.

So, what is Apple going to do with a social media analytics company?

No one seems to have a solid answer.

An Apple spokesperson only says, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

We asked a Topsy investor, but were told, “I am subject to a confidentiality agreement on this matter and cannot comment.”

So far, we haven’t seen anyone else crack this one. Everyone else is in speculation mode.

Apple is not a “social” company. Its specialty is hardware, and software. Its software strength is operating systems and applications. Social media analytics don’t seem to fit into either of those buckets at all.

After reading a few different guesses about why Apple bought Topsy, here’s our best stab at it: Apple is buying Topsy for its search capabilities.

A lot of people are focused on the social media analytics piece of Topsy, but Azeem Azhar, founder of PeerIndex, a social analytics company says, “Topsy is a search engine, at its heart.”

If you want to find old tweets, Topsy is the best way to do it.

Apple’s search capabilities are also pretty crappy. Have you tried searching in Apple Maps? Or the App Store? Or even on the iPhone’s Spotlight search? What about Siri? Just lousy, inconsistent results.

Azhar believes Apple is going to use Topsy as the base layer for its own search engine: “Wouldn’t it be smart for Apple to deploy Topsy’s search infrastructure as the search layer for iOS?”

He suggests Apple would create a rival to Google’s search engine, which sounds a bit too ambitious to us for Apple. We don’t think Apple needs to build a Google-like search engine.

However, it does need to improve its search across the board, and Topsy’s indexing, which is said to be excellent will probably be useful.

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