Is This Apple's Next Acquisition?

Joining in the tradition that has seen Twitter and Facebook (NAS: FB) tightly integrated into the iPhone experience, Apple (NAS: AAPL) has struck a deal with social-business reviews site Yelp (NAS: YELP) so that users can check in directly from the iPhone's new Maps app.

Larry? Sergey? You're fired!
Impressed? I don't blame you, but let's also remember that Apple had to do this. The Mac maker may very well have a better product now, but Google (NAS: GOOG) long ago made its maps play nicely with Google Places for adding Yelp-like detail. Google+ has since added check-ins. The iEmpire is playing catch-up.

I'd also be more impressed if Apple had teamed with Foursquare. An App Store favorite, this location-specific social network has a deal with American Express for check-in discounts for those paying with an eligible credit card.

Imagine a similar arrangement with Apple: Check in to Foursquare and receive iTunes credit when you pay with the card registered to your account. A crude process, to be sure, but one that could move iTunes closer to fulfilling its destiny as a mobile payments platform.

Hello, Mr. Cook. May I interest you in this website?
None of this is to suggest a deal with Yelp is without merit. Far from it -- Apple may even want to spend $2 billion for the site as a tuck-in acquisition that adds meaning to Maps and enhances Passport, a digital-wallet wannabe that stores movie and plane tickets, among other things, digitally on an iPhone.

Imagine how much richer Yelp might be if Apple were to acquire the site and makes Passport the default for storing coupons or group-buying offers from listed businesses. It's a short leap from there to using Siri to find a highly rated restaurant, booking with OpenTable, and paying with iTunes after automatically applying coupons and offers stored in Passport. Maps would kick off the process, acting as a portal in a circular, comprehensive iOS ecosystem stripped of Google's influence.

iTune in
Of course, that's also just my take, and Apple has a way of surprising even the most enterprising investor among us. Keep up to date on the business by signing up for our new Apple research service today. You'll get all of our senior tech analysts' best analysis of the Mac maker right when you need it most.

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Fool contributorTim Beyersis a member of theMotley Fool Rule Breakersstock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim'sWeb home,portfolio holdings, andFoolish writings, or connect with him onGoogle+or Twitter, where he goes by@milehighfool. You can also get his insightsdelivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of American Express, Apple, Facebook, Google, and OpenTable.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of OpenTable, Apple, and Google, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and creating a write covered strangle position in American Express. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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