By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
December 12, 2017

Apple’s purchase of the magical music-identification app Shazam provokes two questions: Why and why now?

Shazam isn’t new, having sprung up in 2008 as one of the first apps to take advantage and show the power of the iPhone, introduced in 2007. (The next year a startup called UberCab similarly took advantage of the smartphone’s unique attributes to create what would become a global transportation company.) Shazam’s relationship with Apple isn’t new either. It long has been one of the App Store’s most popular apps, and its capabilities already are integrated into Apple’s Siri virtual assistant.

Part of the “why” can be found in Apple’s typically cryptic statement confirming the deal. “We are thrilled that Shazam and its talented team will be joining Apple [emphasis mine],” the company said, adding: “We have exciting plans in store.” Apple has a long history of acquiring relatively small companies as much for their people as their technology. An acquisition grew into the original iTunes software. The same is true for Apple’s in-house semiconductor design team. Many lower-profile purchases has bolstered Apple’s behind-the-scenes capabilities.

Why now? Subscription services are becoming a significant and fast-growing part of Apple’s business. Apple Music isn’t the market leader, but it is a major force. Beefing up the talent and the technical attributes of its offering would be a good reason to buy Shazam. The same goes for Apple’s imminent HomePod, an overdue and pricey product whose later generations Apple will want to stand out from the crowd.

Adam Lashinsky


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