Closer ties between Apple and Facebook?

Could more cooperation between Apple and Facebook be in the works? It sure sounds that way, based on comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook last night during a wide-ranging interview at D10, the All Things Digital conference in Southern California (for more on that, see the full report by the Merc’s Troy Wolverton).

The companies have had a testy relationship for years, including failed negotiations in 2010 over integration of Ping, Apple’s iTunes-based social network, and the lengthy time it took Facebook to develop an iPad app. Facebook integration is notably lacking in Apple’s iOS 5 mobile operating system, unlike Twitter, which has a tighter partnership with the Cupertino tech giant.

But, while not giving anything away, Cook indicated that relations between the two tech giants may be warming.

“Facebook is a great company,” Cook said, “our relationship is very solid. . . . I think we can do more with them.” When asked by interviewer Kara Swisher about Facebook’s “onerous” reputation, Cook said “They have their way of doing things, but people say that about us as well.  I think that two people that have strong points of view can appreciate each other even more. Because you have a point of view doesn’t mean you can’t work with other people.”

Cook continued: “We want to provide customers simple and elegant ways to do the things they want to do. Facebook has hundreds of millions of customers. So, anyone that has an iPhone or iPad, we want them to have the best experience with Facebook on those platforms.  So stay tuned.”

More cooperation with Facebook could mean the end of the much-maligned and infrequently used Ping, which Cook acknowledged was a failure: “I think the customers voted and said, ‘This is something we don’t want to put a lot of energy in.’ ”

But what’s really intriguing is that despite Facebook’s rumored foray into the smartphone market, Cook appears to still sees it as a potential partner, not a competitor. Could that indicate that Facebook really isn’t trying to build its own phone? Could a tech detente be in the works that would help both parties — Facebook getting desperately needed mobile integration with the iPhone, and Apple not having to bother with another competing smartphone?

While the speculation flies, don’t expect to hear much from Apple. “We’re going to double down on secrecy,” Cook said.

Sigh. But that’s what makes the Silicon Valley rumor mill go ’round and ’round. So stay tuned.



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