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A co-worker of mine said I should blog about why Apple should buy Flickr—and whether Flickr should sell to Apple, if anyone.  I’d mentioned the idea to him because of all the rumor buzz going around and he said it was worth fleshing out.  Fine, I said.  And here it is:

Apple says they want to be the digital hub for the gadget lifestyle.  More and more gadgets are developing in ways that include wireless access to the cloud.  Specifically, cell phones and cameras are evolving together and quickly, and Apple wants to be part of that intersection.

When most people take pictures with a cell phone camera, they have to upload them somewhere.  They can upload them to a phone carrier Web site, or they can put them somewhere like Flickr, or they can put them on their own computer.  In any case, Apple would really want those people to store their cell phone photos in iPhoto, and a two-way connection with Flickr would be an amazing feature for iPhoto.  Now, instead of only being the hub for full-on cameras, Apple’s in charge of cell phone pictures as well.

Secondly, Apple is trying to make inroads to the PC world.  The technology that was most cross-platform and hot was MP3s, i.e. music. The next big space is digital cameras—check this Christmas’s hottest tech items sold.  But Apple won’t put iPhoto onto the PC without a revenue stream attached to it, and picture books aren’t enough.  But add in the revenue from something like Flickr Pro—or make Flickr Pro part of a .Mac account, and suddenly Apple’s got enough revenue options to at least consider putting iPhoto on the PC.  They then also then have a great way to get PC folks onto .Mac and into Apple’s databases (that is, if those folks don’t already have Apple accounts from buying with iTunes).

Third, we’ve already seen Apple do this with a number of their recent technologies.  iPod’s OS was written by an outside firmiTunes was, too.  It’s not their preferred step to take but they will do so when it’s in their interests.

Fourth, Apple’s got a pile of money right now. Their stock is worth a zillion dollars and they’ve got another zillion in the bank.  They can afford to take a chance, and more to the point, they can’t afford to sit on their iPod laurels.

Fifth, if Apple doesn’t buy them, someone else will.  And while Apple could duplicate Flickr technology, it will have a hard time capturing the Flickr community.  As someone who is a huge Flickr user myself, I can say that they’ve gathered a very special group of people and captured a real esprit de corps.  That could become the next Apple corps.  Get it? Get it?  Sorry.  Does Apple want to let Microsoft grab Flickr?  Or Yahoo? Or Sony?  It could happen.

Fifth, on a simple UI basis, Flickr and Apple get along.  The clean lines, white space, font and text alignment all seem Apple-ish to me.  Yes, it’s not a sound financial reason to base a merger on, but I think it’s a good indicator as to whether these two companies would end up being compatible.

As for whether Flickr should sell: I personally hope they don?t, but if I was any of the founders, of COURSE I would. An opportunity to sell something like that doesn’t happen more than once, especially if it passes by the first time.

If it happens, it has to happen soon.  Perhaps in about 3 months, shortly after the release of Tiger.  Apple doesn’t want anything to disrupt that event, that’s for certain.  Bug me in August 2005 to revisit this prediction.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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