Is Apple the Biggest Facebook Threat?

Now I am not saying Apple is today ready to take on Facebook but boy are getting to a point where the pieces are lining up nicely for the maker of super-cool gadgets to combine the best of its offerings into a seamless social network.

Rather than talk about all the pieces, let’s instead begin the discussion realizing the massive marketshare Apple has and is gaining in consumer electronics. Add to this the increase in Mac shipments the company continues to boast. It is this network of devices which enabled the company to launch a product like FaceTime for video conferencing by immediately interconnecting millions of devices worldwide.

Replicating this approach has to be a concern to every company in tech including Microsoft, Google and yes, Facebook.

It is the fact that the company knows so much about musical taste that it is able to produce a music-based social network called Ping.

The next step for the company is the rumored Find My Friends feature to be included in iOS 4.3 and is similar to the Find My iPhone feature which is now free but once required a $10/month MobileMe subscription. Find My iPhone works amazingly well and allows you to track and remotely send messages and sounds to a lost device and even wipe it clean. Interestingly on a jailbroken iPhone 3GS test unit, I’ve had some problems getting the service to work.

So Apple now has a music-oriented social network, video conferencing and a service allowing friends to communicate their real-time location. Of course some of these features are available to Google Android users as well but if Apple decides to roll these pieces together with other software and services they start to promote, what will users do?

Will they switch or stay put with whichever service they currently use?

After all, Apple revitalized the MP3, cell phone and laptop markets – after many of us thought they were already mature. Then there is the tablet space – Microsoft tried repeatedly to be successful in this market and capitulated.

The downside of course is software – as slick as much of the hardware and software the company develops is, iTunes is a disaster in terms of user interface in my opinion. It seems to me to be the functional equivalent of a plate of spaghetti – it seems to be a confusing jumble and you don’t know where one function starts or ends.

You would imagine if they put their top UI people on a social network which takes the best of the old and blends it with the new; Facebook could be in some trouble. It would be unclear how Apple would monetize such an idea but it has an App Store for Macs and iPhones – it could have one for its social network. It even has an ad platform iAds and a social network would be a great place for its advertisers to explore running their marketing messages.

Now I’m not saying this will happen tomorrow but you have to wonder of all the recent Facebook investors have something new to worry about.

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