I enjoy pondering the question of “who should Apple buy next?” I think it’s probably best answered in this Quora post, which conveniently includes a history of most of their recent acquisitions, then followed by all sorts of fun guesses. Some of the companies mentioned include: Square, Pandora, Sony, Amazon, RIM, and many more. PaidContent lists Apple as a good future home for Netflix.
I’m sure on paper many of these are sound acquisitions. Some bring good IP. Others good cash flow. Others good branding and distribution vehicles. I’d surmise that many a financial analyst could put together very solid plans, and would even wager the discussions happen within Apple from time to time on the topic. But I don’t think Apple’s buying any of them, and for a vastly different reason, one that won’t make any spreadsheet or pro forma statement anywhere. It’s about the DNA transfusion.
If there’s one thing Steve Jobs created over the past decade-plus it’s a certain DNA. It’s a company-wide culture that transcends from product to marketing to customer service to building design. And inserting hundreds of product managers, engineers, QA staff, designers, etc who come from radically different types of DNA will result in exactly one thing: Brundlefly.
My money is on Apple continuing their pattern of only absorbing companies who are either:
- Small – smaller teams who are tightly focused can have their developing culture be absolutely subsumed by Apple’s
- Non-consumer facing – ingredient technologies (chips, algorithms, infrastructure) tend to need less of the consumer product dogma that guides the “Apple way” and have less impact on culture
The exciting thing about an Apple acquisition, in my opinion, is watching them take little pockets of technology and turn them into big consumer products far down the road. Although I would say, of all the companies named above, it certainly does seem like Square could be a good fit from a product, market, *and* DNA perspective, but that’s just from outside appearances.