Apple buy Twitter? No way.

July 28, 2012: 6:30 AM ET

Apple doesn't need a social network. And Twitter doesn't need to cash out.

Image: weeble.net

FORTUNE -- Having posted a piece Friday suggesting -- right in the first sentence -- that Apple (AAPL) would never buy Twitter, my heart stopped briefly when I saw the headline Apple Officials Said to Consider Stake in Twitter in Saturday's New York Times.

Could I have been wrong?

I calmed down a bit when I read Evelyn Rusli and Nick Bilton's piece. These were discussions, not a deal. About an investment, not an acquisition. And the negotiations were over. Done. Kaput.

The Wall Street Journal's catch-up-to-the-Times piece, posted a few hours later, made an acquisition seem even more remote. According to the Journal's "person familiar with the talks," the discussions occurred more than a year ago, not in "recent months" as the Times had it.

Both papers implied, without actually saying it, that the proposed investment was never consummated.

But so what if Apple had invested a few hundred million dollars in Twitter? That's the kind of deal I can see making sense for both parties.

For a couple days worth of iPhone revenue, Apple gets the kind of cooperation from Twitter that it doesn't get from Facebook (FB).

And Twitter can postpone a little longer the day it has to junk up its elegant 140-character messaging service with a flood of intrusive advertising.

Apple is a company famous for sticking to its knitting which is -- as Tim Cook reminds us at every opportunity -- making the "very best products in the world" and selling millions of them at profit margins that are the envy of the rest of the industry. Everything else it does -- from iTunes to the Genius Bar -- it does in support of those hardware sales.

"Does Apple need to be social? Yes." Cook asked himself rhetorically at a tech conference this spring. "Apple doesn't have to own a social network."

For his part, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told the L.A. Times earlier this month that his company was in no hurry go public or find a buyer.

Twitter has, he said, "a truckload of money in the bank."

He did not say if any of it was Apple's.

UPDATE: Bloomberg reported Sunday that according to one source "familiar with the matter," discussions of an Apple investment in Twitter ended "without an agreement."

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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