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Apple may want Yahoo to displace Google

(MoneyWatch) Apple (AAPL) has a new services best friend: Yahoo (YHOO). According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the two companies are discussing potential deals that might include Yahoo delivering more of its Web content to Apple.

That move shows two things about Apple's current situation. One is that management is as wary of, and maybe even as angry at, Google (GOOG) as it has ever been, absent a legendary Steve Jobs full-on rage. The other is that Apple has a major weakness that will require a major acquisition -- like Yahoo -- to bolster.

Apple has had a tense relationship with Google for years, since the latter came out with its own mobile device operating system, Android. But Apple management has been pragmatic. The iOS platform for iPhones and iPads has often integrated Google services. Customers want search facilities and references like maps and step-by-step directions.

These are areas in which Apple has been weak. Not surprising as the company hasn't been in the content aggregation and presentation business. But it still needs the information, which is why it has partnered with various companies that could provide what it lacks.

As the relationship with Google has become more problematic, Apple has begun to look elsewhere for what it needs. Apple Maps was a disaster, in part because raw information is never enough. You have to verify what you have and then put it into a useful form.

Yahoo has experience making its data work in a variety of forms. That would be a powerful aid to Apple and could let it keep more of Google at arm's length. There is also the marvelous irony of Yahoo's CEO having come from Google.

Assuming for a moment that Apple and Yahoo expand an already existing working relationship, all this raises the question of whether an eventual Yahoo acquisition by Apple might make sense. Apple surely has more than enough money to pull it off and it would change the competitive dynamic between it and its arch rival.

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