Facebook and Apple mend fences to stave off threat from Google

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

Featured, News

Facebook and Apple haven’t exactly had the smoothest of relationships. Highlighting their tumultuous relationship, which appears to be on the upswing, Mashable provides us with many interesting tidbits detailing the ups and downs of Facebook’s dealing with Apple.

The beginning of the saga that would become Facebook and Apple got off to a rousing start back in 2006 when Apple set up an Apple Students group on Facebook back in 2006 – a venture which would prove to be a huge success for both companies. Indeed, I remember being a part of said group way back when I was in grad school and being impressed at how quickly the group ballooned in numbers.

But as Facebook would begin to grow and take a more integral role in the tech landscape, it grew a pair of cajones and didn’t think twice about standing up to Apple when it felt it’s demands weren’t being met.

The most publicized confrontation involved Ping, Apple’s attempt at an iTunes social network. Ping first launched with Facebook integration in September 2010, but Facebook quickly pulled Apple’s access to its APIs. This alerted the media to a growing rift between the companies.

A source familiar with the chain of the events attributes the Ping debacle to a disagreement over iOS 4. Apple had fully integrated Facebook into the iPhone and iPad’s operating system, and was ready to launch the mobile-social fusion when API negotiations broke down. Apple, lacking confidence in Facebook’s ability to build a great application, asked to build its own Facebook for iPhone app. Facebook responded with a firm no. Negotiations came to halt.

And that’s just the beginning.

Mashable reports that Steve Jobs visited Facebook HQ about three months ago to discuss the development of a Facebook app for the iPad (note, though, that a “feature complete” version of the app has reportedly been ready for months now).

During the visit, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised Jobs – who was then still Apple’s CEO – that they company would release it’s first official tablet-based Facebook app on the iPad. During Jobs’ visit, however, he learned that the social network was also prepping an app for the now defunct HP Touchpad.

Upon hearing of Facebook’s plan to release a Facebook app for the WebOS-based HP TouchPad, Jobs was furious.

Zuckerberg vowed to get the app pulled. But Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and then the GM of HP’s webOS division, refused to halt the release of the app. Facebook responded by restricting HP’s access to its APIs — just as it had done with Apple’s Ping, a year earlier.

Was Facebook playing both sides? Absolutely, says a source close to HP. Facebook was made aware of the application and device integrations. The company knew what was coming, changed its tune right before release — and only did so to appease Apple.

First, Jobs’ reaction is vintage Jobs. Remember that he reacted similarly upon learning of Google’s true plans with Android. Second, Facebook’s strategy here is, in a way, reminiscent of Apple. Playing both sides, if necessary, in order to gain the utmost advantage for the company. Third, we imagine that Jobs’ anger was only exacerbated by the fact that the company looking to deliver the first tablet-optimized iPad app was HP in that the TouchPad was running on the WebOS it obtained when it acquired Palm. And Palm, you might remember, was headed up by former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein who Jobs was particularly furious with for joining Palm’s efforts to derail the iPhone. Further, you might remember the game of cat and mouse Apple and Palm engaged in regarding the Pre’s on and off-again ability to sync up to iTunes.

In any event, Facebook’s actions regarding HP’s access to their APIs naturally infuriated HP. HP was hoping that the Facebook app would help differentiate the TouchPad from the plethora of tablets out on the market. Interestingly enough, HP at one point was even considering taking legal action but the TouchPad was such a flop that nothing ever came to fruition.

And now, moving forward, Facebook and Apple appear to be closer than they’ve ever been before, largely because they both now share a common enemy in Google.

Not only are the pair finally aligned on the Facebook for iPad application, but they’ve been working together closely on Facebook’s HTML 5 mobile app platform…

Still, there are no guarantees. Both companies are said to be scrambling to work out the final details prior to the iPhone 5 launch event on Oct. 4.

Word that Facebook’s long-awaited iPad app would make its debut during Apple’s upcoming iPhone event first surfaced early last week. There have also been some threads pointing towards deep Facebook integration in iOS 5 a’la Twitter. Indeed, it’s been reported that Facebook was Apple’s top choice for system-level integration but was forced to turn to Twitter due to the aforementioned tension between the two companies.


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