Apple to buy Shazam: Now that’s one great move

Today Apple (AAPL) announced that it would buy Shazam for a price that Recode estimates is around $400 million.

How do I like this deal? Let me count the ways. (Apple is a member of my long-term 50 Stocks portfolio.)

First, in acquiring Shazam, Apple will get a huge user base. The Shazam app, which allows a user to identify a song from a snippet heard on TV or wherever (and then to download it or stream it from Spotify or Apple Music or the iTunes store) has been downloaded more than 1 billion times. Shazam claims 120 million active users, who use the app 20 million times a day. That will help Apple close the gap between Apple Music, with 30 million users, and Spotify with 140 million users and 60 million paying subscribers. Apple wants to convince Wall Street that it’s not just a hardware company and that its service business is a big growth engine. Closing the gap with Spotify will help with that battle. (And Shazam is already incorporated into Apple’s Siri. The acquisition should be useful in Apple’s efforts to compete with Alphabet, Samsung, and Amazon in intelligent assistants.)

Second, with Shazam Apple acquires deep, deep knowledge about user habits. One of the areas where Apple trails Spotify is in its ability to recommend new music to a user on the basis of that user’s listening habits.(Personal note, Apple’s recommendations often seem totally random in my own experience.) Spotify’s “known” superiority in music recommendations was a major selling point vs Apple in a very ad hoc survey I did with my son and his college-age friends.

Third, Shazam owns more than 200 patents for audio and visual recognition. That patent base, and some of Shazam’s own applications of that technology, mesh with Apple’s dive into virtual reality and, more immediately, augmented reality. For example,Shazam lets users scan movie posters and other images to unlock extras such as video clips or augmented reality content from a celebrity or brand. Apple will use Shazam’s audio and visual recognition technology as a feature within Apple Music, Apple TV and other IOS apps. (Snapchat uses Shazam in some of these ways today. It will be interesting to see what happens to Shazam’s deals with technology companies that Apple might decide are competitors.)

Fourth, Apple is getting Shazam at a very decent price. Shazam’s last private financing round is estimated to have valued the company at $1 billion.

With Apple getting dinged by delays in supplies of the iPhone X and some reviews that say the new phone isn’t as good as Samsung’s newest model, this acquisition brings some high profile good news for Apple shareholders, in my opinion.

Full disclosure: I own shares of Apple in my personal portfolios