Steve Jobs knew Apple couldn’t compete in this sector

There are some areas where Steve Jobs knew he shouldn’t take Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). He knew search was Google‘s (Nasdaq: GOOG) turf, and even though Apple launched iAd for mobile advertising, which competes with Google, that was always primarily for the benefit for developers for app monetisation.

Here’s another area where Apple has effectively thrown in the towel, even though it dipped its iToes in briefly: social networking. That’s Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) domain, all the way. On the other hand, Google isn’t giving up social networking and Google+ without a fight.

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson recently discussed Jobs’ view of Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Isaacson says he asked Jobs whom he admired in Silicon Valley, and “Mark’s was the first name on his lips.” That says a lot when we’re talking about a CEO that’s just 28 years old earning the respect of one of the most influential tech figureheads in the past 40 years, especially since Zuckerberg looked up to Jobs as a mentor in many ways.

Jobs admired how Zuckerberg had an “intuitive feel” for the social network’s product direction and what it needed to do next. He also liked Zuckerberg’s passion and propensity to cannibalise older offerings, which is one of the most important traits Apple has and one way it has tackled the Innovator’s Dilemma. This is why Jobs “felt an odd kinship to Mark,” according to Isaacson.

Apple’s limited foray into social networking was the flop that is Ping, a social feature integrated directly into iTunes that was intended for sharing music with friends but quietly failed miserably. Ping is walking the plank as we speak, and Apple and Facebook continue to take their relationship to new levels with OS-level integration in both iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion. Don’t be surprised if Facebook gets a reserved seat in iTunes one of these days soon.

Isaacson says Jobs chose not to regroup Apple’s social efforts after Ping failed to impress, because “Mark did it so well.” Perhaps more interesting, Zuckerberg might not feel the same way about Apple, as it’s rumoured to be working on a Facebook Phone, which would put it in direct competition with the iPhone with absolutely no chance to succeed.

Here’s some free advice, Zuck. You stick to social networking; let Apple stick to smartphones.

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A version of this article, written by Evan Niu, originally appeared on

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