By Harry McCracken | Monday, September 26, 2011 at 9:52 am
Over at Cult of Mac, Mike Elgan is warning Apple that Facebook is a threat to its dominance of digital entertainment:
Facebook will enable the discovery, sharing, buying and renting of movies and TV shows via Netflix, Hulu, Blockbuster, IMDB, Dailymotion and Flixter.
And just as the iPad is gaining traction as the electronic newspaper of choice, Facebook announces partnerships with the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Slate, the Associated Press, Reuters, Yahoo News and others to make Facebook the default online newspaper site.
Facebook is now more directly threatening to Apple’s business model than Microsoft, Google and Sony combined.
Mike is right that if Facebook’s new media-consumption and -sharing features could start to steal customers away from Apple. And he has a solution in mind: Apple needs to build its own social network. Something way better than Ping, which doesn’t seem to have changed iTunes that much, let alone the world.
If Apple were to come up with a cool social network, it would be…cool! But I fret that it’s not in the company’s nature to wade too deeply into the messy, unruly pool of user-generated content. Apple likes things perfect, not social. And an Apple that was great at social networking might not be so hot at all the things Apple is already so good at.
Besides, I’m not sure if we really need another social network, unless it’s transcendently better than the major ones we’ve got–Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. I’m already on all of ‘em, and don’t really have time to wrangle the same friends in yet another place.
So what I’d really like to see is Apple enthusiastically supporting the big existing social networks. If you could share what you’re listening to and watching–and maybe even the apps you’re installing and using–via iTunes on Facebook, Facebook wouldn’t represent a threat to Apple. It would be one more way to keep Apple customers happy and find new ones.
There’s at least one hint that Apple is thinking in this general direction: iOS 5 includes baked-in Twitter support, letting you Tweet from within several of Apple’s applications. But YouTube appears to be the only media-related one. That makes sense: It’s a repository of free content, while iTunes is for paid stuff. If Apple were to really get gung ho about social networking, it would have to figure out what it means to share a piece of content that isn’t a freebie.
iOS 5 will likely be out in a matter of days. That means there’s roughly another year until the next major iOS upgrade is due. That gives Apple time to think further about how its products and services should relate to the social networks its customers use. I hope it does so–it’s an opportunity with both less risk and more potential than building Yet Another Social Network.