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Apple's Fancy New Social Play

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 8, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Recent reports suggest Apple might be weighing a jump into the online social world. With Facebook and Google bringing in ad revenue and additional exposure from their social networks, the company may be looking to invest in a social startup of its own, according to a report from Business Insider.

Apple's Fancy New Social Play

Apple is reportedly in talks to purchase The Fancy, a social e-commerce site that has been likened to Pinterest due to its use of images to help users create visual lists. Where it differs from Pinterest, though, is its e-commerce element. Some items on lists are available for purchase, with a 10 percent cut going back to the site.

The New York Times also recently reported on newly surfaced rumors that the company had been in talks over a possible Twitter acquisition. Even though that may now seem like an unlikely buy, speculation about Apple's possible jump into social media won't go away, said Ty Downing, CEO of SayItSocial, since it's one of the only tech leaders not to have a significant stake in the space. But that's not necessarily a bad thing for the company, especially since much of its ecosystem lends itself to a social setting, said Downing

"Apple has been very successful in making consumer products more intuitive, sexy and mobile," he told MacNewsWorld. "They are really already in the social game with the successful apps, allowing developers to build social and e-commerce apps. I think they should continue to play their strengths there."

If the company is biding time and waiting to make the right slide into the social space, The Fancy could be the way to do it, said Downing, especially if can effectively integrate the commerce aspect of The Fancy into its ecosystem. Facebook has tried to facilitate transactions through its network without much success, but Apple already has a base of users accustomed to spending money in iTunes and the app store.

"The Fancy is very visual, likened to Pinterest, which I do feel plays to Apple's vision of images and photo-sharing," he said. "So, it's more of a hybrid Apple-Commerce. Apple-Commerce could actually be very successful if they weave it into their culture successfully, but if they are not sensitive to culture, this possible buy could be an epic fail. The next phase of social business is commerce, and how to turn advocates into transactions."

Fighting On

The legal battle between Apple and Samsung is a many-ringed, international circus of accusations, motions, hearings and judicial decisions. The war's hottest spot is currently a California courtroom, where the two companies grapple with each other in a patent infringement trial.

The overall legal fight has proven to be especially complicated. The two have a complex business relationship in addition to their patent squabbles, with Apple relying on Samsung's processors to run many of its mobile devices.

The U.S. trial is into its second week, and the longer it continues, the more information about both companies' top-secret designs and business tactics is being leaked to the public. After a week of learning previously unknown details about what types of prototypes were being tossed around during Apple and Samsung brainstorming sessions, the newest reveal is a glimpse into Apple's marketing strategies.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, testified about the company's ability to use media hype, rumors and unsolicited product placement to create buzz about products like the iPhone and the iPad rather than investing in more traditional forms of advertising.

Apple and Samsung might be bristling at the disclosures, but the presiding judge, Lucy Koh, should be commended for making sure that what the court hears, the public hears, said Douglas Sorocco, patent attorney at Dunlap Codding.

"A patent is a contract with society -- disclosure for a limited monopoly," Sorocco, told MacNewsWorld. "Judicial resources are not finite, and these types of 'take no prisoner' lawsuits need something to keep the scope of the claims and issue within reason."

With both sides still debating, it's unclear when an end date will come, and which company might emerge as a victor -- or if a lengthy appeal will follow.

Boy Genius Outta Here

While Schiller may have offered a glimpse into Apple's past advertising strategies, his testimony did not indicate why Apple decided to pull its so-called Boy Genius ads from television. The ads, which feature a young Apple Genius Bar employee answering questions from sometimes painfully clueless customers, ran for the first time during the Olympics, but are no longer airing.

A representative from the company's ad agency told MacRumors that the original plan with the ads was to air them solely as a trial during the first weekend of the London games. However, the abrupt pull has left some wondering whether Apple's older, tech-savvy customers were offended by the portrayal of bumbling consumers.

Apple did not respond to our request for comment.

Security Crucial for Successful iCloud

Apple's cloud storage system also took some heat after a reporter's online accounts, and eventually his Apple devices, were wiped clean after a hack.

Given the relatively new adoption of personal cloud storage, the problem isn't necessarily Apple-specific, said Krishnan Subramanian, principal analyst at Rishidot Research. However, it is a concern for any company that hopes to have a viable cloud option going forward, including Apple. Cloud usage is at a crucial growth stage, he said, and a serious security breach could wipe out any company's chances at being a future cloud leader.

"Security is a critical piece if Apple wants to have a cloud strategy," he told MacNewsWorld. "Especially, when Apple ties remote wipe into their iCloud offering, it is important that they focus on security, as this can have a catastrophic impact on users."

At that point, the best option for Apple is to make sure users understand the proper protection protocol for iCloud.

"What Apple, or for that matter an other cloud vendor, can do is to train customer support professionals well enough to avoid falling into any social engineering traps, establish protocols which err on the side of security and, more importantly, educate the end users," he said.

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at rachelle.dragani@newsroom.ectnews.com.

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