Silly rumor of the day: Apple to buy Twitter for $10B

April 23, 2012, 8:09 PM UTC


FORTUNE — At 11:07 a.m. Monday, a brief item hit the business newswires:

Apple may buy Twitter for $10B — Forbes

At first I assumed it was some kind of mistake. But no, there it was on A 980-word piece by Eric Jackson, one of their regular contributors, pitching Apple’s (AAPL) $10 billion purchase of Twitter as the “next shoe to drop” after Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram.

This is how rumors get started.

It wasn’t that long ago that Apple was supposed to be buying Facebook. Or Disney. Or Yahoo. Or Adobe. Or Tivo. Or Netflix. Or Electronic Arts.

That list, published in the
New York Times
, followed an offhand comment by Steve Jobs about Apple keeping its cash “powder dry” for one or more “strategic opportunities.” See here.

The rumors didn’t make sense then and they don’t now. Facebook and Twitter are not the kind of company Apple buys.

What kind of enterprise does Apple buy? The list below, taken from Wikipedia, is instructive. As the entry succinctly puts it, paraphrasing BusinessWeek‘s Arik Hesseldahl (now at AllThingsD): “Apple’s business philosophy is to acquire small companies that can be easily integrated into existing company projects.”

For example:

  • 1997 Next (programming services). Value: $404 million
  • 1997 Power Computing (cloned computers). $100 million
  • 1999 Xemplar Education (software). $5 million
  • 1999 Raycer Graphics (graphic chips). $15 million
  • 2000 NetSelector (Internet software). Value: NA
  • 2001 Astarte (DVD authoring software). Value: NA
  • 2001 bluebuzz (Internet service provider). Value: NA
  • 2001 Source Technologies (graphics software). Value: NA
  • 2001 PowerSchool (online info systems services). $62 million
  • 2002 Nothing Real (special effects software). $15 million
  • 2002 Zayante (software). $13 million
  • 2002 Silicon Grail Corp-Chalice (digital effects software). Value: NA
  • 2002 Emagic (music production software). $30 million
  • 2002 Propel Software (software). Value: NA
  • 2005 Fingerworks (gesture recognition). Value: NA
  • 2006 Silicon Color (software). Value: NA
  • 2006 Proximity (software). Value: NA
  • 2008 P.A. Semi (semiconductors). $268 million
  • 2009 Placebase (maps). Value: NA
  • 2009 Lala (music streaming). $17 million
  • 2010 Quattro (mobile advertising). $275 million
  • 2010 Intrinsity (semiconductors). $121 million
  • 2010 Siri (voice-recognition software). $200 million
  • 2010 Poly9 (Web-based mapping). Value: NA
  • 2010 Polar Rose (face recognition). $29 million
  • 2010 IMSense (photography). Value: NA
  • 2011 C3 Technologies (3D Mapping). $267 million
  • 2011 Anobit (Flash memory management). $390 million
  • 2012 Chomp (App search). $50 million

See? Not a Facebook or Yahoo among them. Apple’s largest acquisition was the 1997 purchase of NeXT that brought Steve Jobs back to the company for $404 million — about 1/25th the price Jackson is suggesting Apple pay for Twitter.

So file this story with the one Forbes ran last week on the significance of Tim Cook’s visit to gaming powerhouse Valve — a visit, we later learned, that never took place.