Apple gets social

31 May 2012

NEW YORK: Apple, the electronics giant, is seeking to become more "social" in reflection of changing consumer habits, a process that may ultimately involve greater co-operation with Facebook.

Speaking at a conference run by AllThingsD, the digital title, Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, argued the company needed to embrace widespread trends towards interactivity.

"Apple doesn't have to own a social network, if that's the heart of your question" he added. "But does Apple need to be social? Yes."

The firm is currently carefully integrating sharing tools for Twitter, the microblog, into its iOS mobile operating system and the equivalent software for its Mac computers.

"Some people think of iMessage as social," Cook added. This service lets users of the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch send messages to other users or groups owning these gadgets, and to continue conversations even if they switch between them.

Apple's Game Center, which allows for multi-player activity, could fit a similar bill, Cook said. "And so things like this make our devices even more useful to people," he continued. "But that doesn't mean that Apple needs to own a social network."

An initial foray by Apple into the social space was Ping, an addition to its iTunes music platform which empowered members to recommend songs and "follow" other users.

"We tried Ping and the customer voted and said, 'This isn't something I want to put a lot of energy into,'" Cook said. "Some customers love it but there's not a huge number that do, so will we kill it? I don't know. I'll look at it."

In response to a question suggesting Facebook and Apple are essentially "must haves" for one another, Cook agreed certain mutual benefits would exist for consumers using both their products.

"For us, we want to provide customers simple and elegant ways to do the things they want to do," he said. "Facebook has millions - hundreds of millions - of customers … Anybody that has an iPhone or an iPad, we want them to have the best experience with Facebook on those platforms."

At present, however, the sharing menus made available on Apple's devices feature links to Twitter but not to Facebook, despite the fact the latter service is easily the largest player in its sector.

The late Steve Jobs, Cook's predecessor, even once stated that Facebook had set overly "onerous terms" when discussing a possible tie-up with Ping. Cook sounded much more optimistic about the future.

"They have their way of doing things, but people could say that about us as well ... Because you have a point of view doesn't mean you can't work with other people," Cook said. "We have a great respect for them. I think we can do more with them. So just stay tuned on this one."

Data sourced from AllThingsD/Macworld Live; additional content by Warc staff