News of Apple's acquiring the app recommendation startup Chomp strikes us as interesting for exactly three reasons. (And no, none of them have anything to do with predicting when the iPad 3 or iPhone 5 will come out.) Chomp is an app for iPhone and Android that produces socially driven suggestions for other apps you might like. A Web version also exists, and they're all free. So what does its imminent integration into Apple mean?
1. Despite its $98 billion war chest, Apple doesn't acquire that many companies. Its last acquisition was two months ago, when it acquired the Israeli flash memory company Anobit for $390 million, presumably to improve the storage on its mobile devices. (Google, by comparison, swallows up a new company about every two weeks.) However, Chomp stands out among the list of other companies that Apple's brought because it doesn't really match up with any existing Apple products. The last time this happened was back in April 2010 when Apple bought Siri. And now iPhones come equipped with it. Will we soon be able to navigate the 550,000+ icons in the App Store with the help of a Chomp button?
2. $50 million is a paltry sum for such a rich company. Looking back at Apple's list of acquisitions again, you can also post a trend of Apple buying biggish companies for large sums of money. Before the Anobit purchase, Apple bought the 3D mapping technology company C3 Technologies for a whopping $267 million. Apple reportedly paid around $50 million for Chomp. But it looks like Chomp's folks are already being made to feel at home. Word on the tweets is that the two teams are already being integrated. "Chomp CEO Ben Keighran and CTO Cathy Edwards are already working at Apple," says 9-to-5 Mac blogger Seth Weintraub. "Keighran joined the iTunes marketing team, and Edwards is now a senior iTunes engineer."
3. Chomp is social, and Apple needs better social features. This isn't a theory. Little-by-little, Apple executives have been stepping forward and expressing interest in working more social media features into their products. Twitter integration came with iOS5, and at a shareholder meeting on Thursday, CEO Tim Cook called Facebook a "friend" and told the room that he'd "always thought that the two companies could do more together." Apple hasn't had much luck building social networking features in-house -- remember the epic fail that was Ping? -- so bringing in fresh blood makes sense. We'll have to wait and see if Chomp's integration into iTunes will be better received than that of Ping, but so far everybody seems happy. "I haven’t been able to learn the exact terms of the deal, but I hear that all the investors should be very pleased with the outcome," explained TechCrunch's MG Siegler, who broke the story. "This is not a cheap 'acqui-hire', Apple has bought the Chomp team and technology and plans to use both to completely revamp App Store search and recommendations, I hear." And now, we must give the floor to Dr. Jobs for a flashback to the very beginning: