Now admittedly, the majority of Silicon Valley’s tech giants are at out-and-out war with one another, but every now and then there’s a little love-in. Step forward Apple, which has just bought social media analytics firm Topsy Labs for an estimated $200m (£122m), which uses data from Twitter to track how customers are feeling about various brands. Aaah.
The interesting thing about Topsy Labs is that, while any idiot can see what’s trending on Twitter, not many companies have access to the full 400 billion-odd tweets published since Twitter’s launch in 2006. That allows companies who use Topsy’s service to track sentiment over several years – which, obviously, is valuable.
Apple hasn’t done a lot in the social media sphere before: its one attempt, music sharing service Ping, hit a bum note among consumers. As is traditional among tech firms, Apple was cagey about what exactly it plans to do with the company. ‘We generally do not discuss our purpose,’ said a rather pompous-sounding spokesperson.
Analysts, on the other hand, have been jumping at the chance to discuss it.
‘For companies to be able to understand what is popular with these users and what they are interested in, and then use it to their advantage, they need to filter the content and understand it. Topsy gives Apple the tools to do just that,’ said Sanjana Chappalli of digital marketing firm Lewis Pulse. In other words, it could use the service to determine what gadgets to make. Not a bad move, considering its latest additions have been a bit… boring.
One thing it’s unlikely to put much more effort into in the future is its iMac PCs. In fact, PCs are rapidly becoming the cassette tapes of the 2010s (noughteens?). Figures by the snappily-titled International Data Corporation suggest shipments of desktop computers had their ‘most severe yearly fall on record’ in 2013, dropping by 10.1% - more than the 9.7% originally expected.
Sales have fallen for the past six quarters, which is generally blamed on the rise and rise of their hipper younger cousin, the tablet computer. Although it’s worth pointing out that PCs are never going to die entirely until businesses stop using them. And for that to happen, offices would have to become entirely superfluous. It’ll be a while yet before PCs go the way of the abacus…