Could Google or Tencent Beat Facebook to Buying Snapchat?

android-snapchat-01-650x0

Right now, Snapchat is having its “belle of the ball” moment.

The mobile messaging service – which lets users exchange photos and video that disappear after a few seconds – is being courted by Facebook. It has long been an app that CEO Mark Zuckerberg lusted after.

Thursday afternoon brought another turn of the screw. Valleywag reported that Google could also possibly be considering taking a run at Snapchat, matching Facebook’s $3 billion to $3.5 billion offer. Google and Facebook aren’t commenting, but sources said that Google has indeed expressed some interest in a deal. Tencent, the Chinese consumer Internet company, has also been eyeballing the company, according to sources.

I don’t know Snapchat’s fate, and from what I’ve been told, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel himself is unsure of it. But it got me thinking – whether they’re in the running or not, which companies are most likely to go after the fast-growing Snapchat?

Let’s go down the list.

Facebook:
Zuckerberg wants Snapchat bad. So bad, in fact, that he tried – and failed – to clone the app outright. Sources familiar with the matter have described the Facebook CEO as “obsessed” with Snapchat and the idea of ephemeral messaging. They told AllThingsD that he has made multiple offers to acquire the company, some for more than the $1 billion he paid for Instagram last year.

Likelihood: Very High

Google:
Google may have Google+, but it knows it can’t hold a candle to Facebook or even Twitter when it comes to social mobile apps. Buying Snapchat could give Google immediate overnight relevance in social, while simultaneously dealing a blow to Facebook. Not to mention that $3 billion is a pittance for the highly profitable company to spend on an acquisition.

Likelihood: High

Tencent:
This is a good fit. Spiegel has described Tencent as a “role model” for Snapchat in terms of revenue models – potentially alluding to in-app purchasing possibilities for the startup.

And Tencent is indeed interested – if not in a full acquisition, then at the very least in a large strategic investment.

Likelihood: Very High

Yahoo:
A dark horse, and at this point not an entrant as far as I’ve heard. Still, CEO Marissa Mayer has the cash to make the deal, and is no stranger to acquisitions. Plus, an acquisition of Snapchat could help to both bolster Yahoo’s mobile efforts – which are lacking – and burnish its less-than-cool image – sort of like buying Tumblr did.

Still, there’s no evidence to my knowledge that Yahoo has approached Spiegel or Snapchat about a potential acquisition.

Likelihood: Unlikely

Twitter:
After long considering killing off its direct-messaging feature entirely, Twitter woke up last year and figured out that people actually love sending private messages. Another satellite app acquisition – similar to the one it did with Vine – could make sense.

Problem is, the figures being thrown around for Snapchat now are way out of Twitter’s price range. They’re nearly double the amount the company just raised in its initial public offering. At this point, Snapchat is far too rich for Twitter’s blood.

Likelihood: Not at all likely

A caveat to many of the past week’s stories on this topic: It’s possible – if not likely – that the escalating prices and number of companies involved is largely due to jockeying from Snapchat insiders who stand to make hundreds of millions on the deal. Read each new report with that in mind.

snapchatdollar640

Another thing to remember: Spiegel intends to raise yet another round of funding for his company at a hefty valuation. If another round goes through, there will likely be a secondary component to it, in which Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy could sell some of their own shares and cash out. That means the two could still continue to go for broke and build out their own company rather than sell to the highest bidder, while having the insurance of already having taken some money off the table. And according to multiple people close to Snapchat, Spiegel and Murphy very much want to build out the startup into a full-fledged company.

Bottom line: If Snapchat keeps growing – and sources said that is indeed the case – Spiegel isn’t under the gun to make a decision today. If all goes well, his acquisition offers – and the high prices they command – likely won’t disappear.

Shhh! Amazon Starts a Semi-Secret Digital Focus Group for Its Homegrown TV Shows and Movies.

basic instinct

Amazon, which is starting to make its own TV shows, has already made a splash by letting anyone on the Web watch its test programs and weigh in on them.

Now it’s starting a more selective effort, where it invites some of its “best customers” into a semi-secret focus group and asks for their opinions on its programming even earlier in the process.

Here’s the way Amazon describes the program, which it is calling “Amazon Preview”:

Amazon Preview is an exclusive opportunity for entertainment fans to help shape Movies and TV Series. Once you’ve accepted our invitation, we will email you opportunities to view and provide feedback on entertainment projects – before they’re available to anyone else. We’ll share concepts, storyboards, test movies and even television pilots with Amazon Preview members and use the feedback we collect from them to make entertainment projects better.

You can learn a little bit about Amazon Preview by clicking on this link, and checking out these FAQs. But you can’t learn much more about the program unless Amazon asks you to participate. And even then, you may not make the cut.

Someone we know recently got an invite to Amazon Preview, but when they clicked through, they found this filtering screen, listing a long line of professions that they couldn’t work in if they wanted to join the program. So, no luck for them – or for people like me, or basically anyone remotely related to the media business:

amazon preview

Via email, an Amazon rep confirmed that Amazon Preview exists, but wouldn’t say much more. A Google search indicates that there aren’t many people participating yet – or if there are, they’re not saying much about it. It does appear as though Amazon is using Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based online research firm, to power the program.

Obviously, if you’re in the program, or know someone who is, we’d love to know more. Drop me a line: peter@allthingsd.com; I’m happy to keep you anonymous.

Apple Ramps Up iPhone, iPad Production With New Manufacturing Partners

yellowiphone5c380

Apple is enlisting additional help to meet demand for its new iPhones.

Sources in position to know tell AllThingsD that Apple has tapped Wistron, a contract manufacturer in Taiwan, to bolster iPhone production capacity as it heads into the holidays and the new year beyond.

Wistron will begin manufacturing devices for Apple sometime this month or next, joining existing iPhone production partners Foxconn and Pegatron, sources said. The company has built smartphones for the likes of BlackBerry, ZTE and Nokia. Whether Wistron will build the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 5c, or both, couldn’t be learned.

Apple is also said to be ramping up iPad production as well. The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report news of the Wistron deal, said the company has chosen Compal Communications, also based in Taiwan, to produce additional iPad minis in 2014.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

LinkedIn Kicks Off Its Pulse Integration

Icon_Pulse

For the world’s largest professional network, content is king. No surprise, then, that LinkedIn has fully integrated social newsreader app Pulse into its mobile and Web properties.

That means that after downloading and opening Pulse for iOS or Android, users will see article recommendations based on the subject categories and people they follow on LinkedIn and – if they used the app previously – on Pulse as well. Users will be prompted to sync their LinkedIn profiles with their Pulse accounts after downloading.

Pulse’s integration also marks the replacement of LinkedIn Today, the company’s front door for delivering news and “Influencer” posts – penned content from high-profile members of the business and media world written specifically for LinkedIn. Pulse, too, will deliver the news from the desktop to LinkedIn visitors from within the LinkedIn site.

It’s another step in LinkedIn’s big push to provide a mix of original and outside content on its site, an effort to bolster the number and frequency of users returning to it on a regular basis. In the past, the company has been seen widely as a repository for resumes, visited sparingly by job-seekers.

linkedinpulse

With the $90 million acquisition of Pulse seven months ago, LinkedIn hopes to change that image. Along with a suite of redesigned mobile applications – like LinkedIn’s iPad and Android apps – the focus is more on the LinkedIn “stream” of content flowing down the center of a user’s page. Much like Facebook or other social networks, LinkedIn users have a wealth of material to click on as it moves through their feed. That means more interactions and, ultimately, more time spent on site.

Beyond that, LinkedIn has even moved into users’ email mobile apps with Intro, the company’s way of displaying LinkedIn bio information from people you receive emails from within the email itself. It’s a smart way for LinkedIn to break out of the silo of its own apps or website, while potentially drawing people to the company’s properties if they click on the info inside the email.

And with the new app integrations, users should push more items from Pulse back to LinkedIn by sharing it with their network. They can “Like” or comment on items they see in Pulse, activity which will sync with their LinkedIn accounts. When those actions show up on LinkedIn, it’s ultimately a net win for the network, keeping it healthy and flowing with fresh content.

The new apps are available today in the iTunes and Android app stores.

What to Expect From Apple’s Fall iPad Event (Spoiler: New iPads!)

hugo-ipad

In the invitation to its Oct. 22 fall event, Apple said it has “a lot more to cover” before the year is out. And indeed it does – more so this year than in recent years past, sources tell AllThingsD.

So what can we expect to see Apple unveil at Yerba Buena Center come Tuesday?

The obvious, really. As we’ve previously reported, the event will focus on the fifth-generation iPad and the second-generation iPad mini. Sources said the former will feature a thinner, lighter design akin to the iPad mini’s, and an improved camera. It will run Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip. As I noted earlier this month, the new iPad mini will be outfitted with a retina display. It, too, is likely to see the A7 incorporated into its innards, as Apple shifts its mobile device lineup to 64-bit (more on the short and long term benefits of that here).

Also expected on Tuesday, the announcement of a street date for OS X Mavericks – which is scheduled to launch before the end of the month – and for the new cylindrical Mac Pro, as well. I’m told both will be given stage time. A potential wildcard here: A new display to pair with the Pro. Apple hasn’t fielded a new monitor since introducing the Thunderbolt LED display in 2011. Its latest Mac Pro has enough horsepower to drive three 4K displays simultaneously, and it’s hard to imagine the company debuting it without a new monitor that can take at least some advantage of that.

Finally, I’m told we’re likely to see a slate of new MacBook Pros upgraded with Intel’s latest Haswell processors. Apple brought Haswell to its MacBook Airs earlier this year, giving them a nice boost in battery life and graphics. It has been expected to do the same for its professional laptops ever since. Tuesday may well bring with it the announcement of that move.

Beyond that, it’s tough to say. Haswell Mac minis are certainly a possibility. Once the MacBook Pro makes the leap to the chip, the mini will be the Mac without it. Also possibly on tap for release, iWork for iCloud (from beta) and iLife, whose newly redesigned icons slipped out onto the Web last week.

Join AllThingsD Tuesday morning at 10 am PT for live coverage of the event.