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Apple acquires Twitter analytics firm Topsy for around $200 million

Apple has bought social-media analytics company Topsy for more than $200 million, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The Cupertino company confirmed the deal to the Journal with the rollout of a now familiar phrase accompanying such acquisitions: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” The spokesperson declined to offer any details about the deal.

Topsy, a San Francisco-based start-up founded in 2007, is one of only a few firms to have access to Twitter’s “firehose” – the microblogging site’s entire stream of data comprising billions of tweets stretching from today all the way back to the very first one posted in 2006.

This access, combined with its analytical software, helps it to uncover user sentiment and trends, with companies able to utilize the data to understand, for example, the effectiveness of a past marketing campaign or to help it plan a future one. On its website, which is still up and running, Topsy says it “helps brands, agencies, and consumers extract meaningful signals from the social media noise.” 

It’s not fully understood how Apple will make use of its acquisition, though the Journal suggests it may use the technology for iTunes Radio – its recently launched Pandora and Spotify rival – bringing trending songs to the attention of users of its music streaming service, which could ultimately drive more song sales via the  iTunes store.

The company has pretty much steered clear of social media since shuttering its failed music-centric social networking service Ping in October last year, so its acquisition of Topsy may come as a surprise to some observers.

The start-up came to the attention of many in September when an update to its service began allowing users to search every tweet ever posted, enabling anyone to quickly pull together a Twitter user’s entire tweeting history.

Apple’s acquisition of Topsy is the latest of many for the company as it seeks to develop and enhance its array of services. Last month, for example, it picked up PrimeSense, the Israeli company behind Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensor technology, for between $300 and $400 million.

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