The New York Times is reporting that Apple might invest some of its considerable cash reserves in Twitter. After the unrewarded experiment that was Ping, Apple put a few hundred million dollars in Twitter in return for tighter cooperation between the companies and sharing Twitter's insight into the social media world. The conversations over the past few months have been private, the NYT reports, and the two companies are not in active negotiations right now. If there were to be an investment, however, it could raise Twitter's value to more than $10 billion. (Philip Elmer-Dewitt points out that both the NYT and the followup WSJ story implied that the conversations between the two companies had ended without any deal.)
Tim Cook acknowledged at D10 that the company needed to be more social and that it could consider killing off Ping at some point. "We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said 'This isn't something I want to put a lot of energy into,'" he said during the conference. He pointed out that Apple doesn't have to own a social network to be more social and used the added integration of Twitter into OS X Mountain Lion as an example of that.
But will this go through? It's hard to say. Remember, at one point there was speculation that Apple would buy Facebook. Apple has a solid relationship with Twitter though, with its deep integration into iOS and now OS X. The NYT reports that the integration of Twitter into iOS 5 has resulted in more than 10 billion tweets since last fall.
It would make sense for them to invest financially in Twitter than to keep pumping resources into Ping. But what could Apple get from such an investment that it doesn't already have in its current relationship with Twitter?
If Twitter goes public, Apple would most likely be a significant stockholder. It would keep Apple on the leading edge of social media instead of playing the catch-up game that it was doing with iOS 5 and Mountain Lion. Apple has used its cache of cash to buy companies that give it a strategic advantage, as seen with today's purchase of AuthenTec. Apple isn't willing to risk its relationship in Twitter going sour and might well invest in it financially to keep the relationship on an even keel.