Could Apple’s Past Help Us Predict Who It Acquires Next?

When Steve Jobs said his company was keeping its powder dry for possible acquisitions, a new favorite tech-industry pastime of guessing who Apple (s aapl) will acquire next was instantly created.

But much of this speculation has been pretty wild-eyed. Jobs himself can be blamed for the hysteria, since his words were highly suggestive. And let’s face it, $50 billion dollars is a whole lotta cash.

Blockbuster deals are out of character with the company’s conservative acquisition history, but it does pay to analyze the last few years when examining what makes Apple tick when it goes shopping:

The table above shows the last seven acquisitions by Apple, breaking down the company type and summarizing what Apple gained in the deal. In looking at the patterns in the list, you can start to uncover some possible motives:

Control. Apple likes to control its own destiny, which means controlling more links in the product roadmap. Because of this, the company bought both PA Semi and Intrinsity, which gave it, theoretically, more control over their mobile processor development.

Creatively monetizing market position. Apple has wisely looked to fully leverage its market positions through additional avenues of monetization. By buying Quattro Wireless, it was able to delve deeper into the well of advertising revenue made possible through mobile apps.

Product differentiation/creation. The leading consumer and personal technology company in the world today will, time to time, buy IP that can translate into new products and features.

Google. Let’s face it, much of what Apple does nowadays is in reaction to Google. Not only did Quattro Wireless put Apple into the mobile ad game, it was also in part due to Google’s AdMob buy. You could say, Placebase and Siri also were partially motivated by the other big, fast-moving tech giant.

But what does this all mean for the future? Well, if we take the above motives and apply them to some of the current names being tossed about, it would look something like this:

My feeling is that any of the deals above are unlikely, but I do think Twitter and Spotify could make sense. Twitter because the price, while high, is digestible and Apple/Twitter is a highly disruptive pairing, mostly due to the possibilities it opens up for Apple’s growing interest in advertising monetization; Spotify because it would help boost the company’s push into streaming and subscriptions, though admittedly the technology could likely be built by Apple and Spotify’s existing label deals could be negated by acquisition.

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Source: flickr user Ben Chau

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