Wait. What? Facebook vs. Apple? We’re not comparing Apple to apples, right? An important aspect of being a large technology company with vast riches is shareholder value. Revenue? Need it. Profit? Good. Shareholder value is a must have.
Facebook and Apple, along with other modern tech giants, have the riches of shareholder value and plenty of riches. Apple and cohorts use their riches to advance their cause. Cause? Shareholder value. Apple buys tech companies that can help sell more products. What does Facebook do? Same thing. Except for the products.
Through the years we’ve seen Apple make strategic purchases of smaller companies. Beats Music comes to mind. So does the recent purchase of Shazam. Emagic became the basis for Garageband and Logic Pro X. Siri was a purchase. The Authentec purchase brought Touch ID to iPhones and iPads. Through the years Apple has bought a few semiconductor design companies and now designs its own internal chips and the iPhone CPU. Wikipedia has a good list and you can see many of the features in Apple’s products in the names.
Competitors and other technology companies do much the same thing but few have had as much success as Apple.
Take a look at the list of Facebook acquisitions. There are many small ones, a few giant purchases, but a number of the recent acquisitions have to do with strengthening Facebook’s ability to track users and cull personal information from their online use. #66 on the list is an example. Facebook bought Confirm. What does Confirm do? Thomas McMullan:
Facebook has acquired a startup that offers a system for verifying the authenticity of ID cards, biometrics and facial recognition.
What does that mean?
[Confirm] will presumably work on verification for the Facebook platform – perhaps with transactions made on the social network, or helping users that are locked out of their accounts.
Uh huh. Sure. Although it seems the technology can also be used to determine who’s who in photographs. Do you know any website which have user photos?
Confirm on what it expects to happen:
When we launched Confirm, our mission was to become the market’s trusted identity origination platform for which other multifactor verification services can build upon
Translation: We have technology that can be used to determine who you are based upon photographs.
This is little more than another step forward to Facebook’s ability to know more about you than you know about yourself or your family. Sure, verifying who you are to your Facebook account is all well and good, but how does that benefit me?
It. Does. Not.
Again, this is advanced technology which can be used to determine more accurately– by many different means– that you are who you say you are. Add to that another acquisition; or, rather, another hire to bolster Facebook’s artificial intelligence capability (scan photos, follow links, track connected users). Facebook hired the former development head on IBM’s famous Watson platform.
Facebook’s move to beef up its AI staff comes at a time when Google and Microsoft are also adding AI employees to their rosters in an effort to beef up their AI offerings. Facebook has made other moves to expand its AI offering in recent months.
Every company that falls into the technology sector seems to be heading down the artificial intelligence highway, and with Siri due to show up on Apple’s new HomePod hardware, yes, Apple is in the mix, too.
What’s the difference?
All these technology companies buy other tech companies that may fit their objectives (see shareholder value above). Ditto for engineering talent. And, of course, Apple does that, too. What’s the difference between what Apple does and what Facebook is doing now?
Apple makes money the old fashioned way. It makes and sells hardware and designs software that works on that hardware. Facebook is much like Google and Amazon because they make their riches by gathering information about users or customers. Amazon sells products that track you. Google, too. Facebook, like Google, makes money and increases shareholder value by culling personal data from users and selling it to advertisers.
That’s not the same as what Apple does.