Apple, Yahoo! Tie-Up: Examining the Possibilities (Update 2)

Updated from 11:25 a.m. EDT to provide investor comments regarding the tie-up in the third paragraph.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Since taking over Yahoo! ( YHOO), CEO Marissa Mayer has made major changes to both corporate culture and the company's line of thinking. A closer relationship with Apple ( AAPL) would continue to change the perception of Yahoo! as a force in mobile.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports Mayer has met with Apple to discuss new ways to collaborate. Yahoo! already provides data to the iPhone, including the Stocks App and the Weather app that come pre-installed on the iPhone and iPad, utilizing Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo!'s weather, respectively. Yahoo! also provides data to Siri, Apple's voice assistant.

Mayer has said collaboration is the way to go, especially when it comes to mobile and making money from it, since Yahoo! does not have a mobile operating system. On the company's fourth-quarter conference call, Mayer noted Yahoo! intends to do more, and a relationship with Apple could be just the start. "Yahoo! needs this," said one hedge fund analyst who declined to be named. "Apple can live with or without it." The analyst is long Apple shares.

"With any platform shift, revenue always follows users, and Mobile will be no different," Mayer said on the call. "Smart monetization of this usage is inevitable. We intend to participate fully in the innovation and experimentation required to make Mobile a material part of our business."

Yahoo! has countless Web properties and content it could load on Apple's iOS platform, including more content from Yahoo! News, or perhaps Yahoo! Answers, which Mayer in the past has said is "an undervalued property," talking about the app participation there and compelling number of page views.

Perhaps a recent acquisition by Yahoo! could be the key to a bigger relationship with Apple. Yahoo! recently acquired Summly, a mobile product company designed to get information faster, easier and more concisely to users. Summly could be Yahoo!'s hope to circumvent Google ( GOOG) in Apple, especially if it's tied up with Siri.

Ironfire Capital co-founder and Real Money contributor Eric Jackson believes a potential tie-up would start with Siri. "There's so much content that Yahoo can help deliver to Siri," Jackson said in an email. He noted as part of Yahoo!'s acquisition of Summly, it included intellectual property rights from SRI International, which was "the birthplace of Siri and Nuance. Seems like Yahoo will be able to use this if they can work more closely with Apple on Siri." Jackson is long both Yahoo! and Apple shares.

For now, Apple has tried to move away from Google services on its iOS devices, including the botched Apple Maps, but Google still remains an important part of iPhones and iPads, with YouTube, Google Maps, and other properties. Apple has said in the past it will not compromise on quality for its users, and Google's products still remain best in class, at least for now.

Apple is increasingly trying to focus on web services, as it looks to beef up its iOS offerings. Jackson noted that Apple has lagged competitors, including Google, Facebook ( FB) and Twitter when it comes to web services. "I believe web services will be an increasingly important battleground in phones going forward."

Mayer's Yahoo! and Tim Cook's Apple seem to be a natural fit when it comes to a partnership. The two companies have a common "frenemy" in Google, and working closer together makes sense. I opined last month that a closer relationship between the two companies wouldn't hurt when news broke that Yahoo! was looking at larger acquisitions. I suggested that Mayer should look at acquiring Yelp ( YELP), which already has a presence on iOS, via Apple Maps.

Apple sold over 70 million iPhones and iPads in its most recent quarter, and is estimated to sell more than 200 million iOS devices this year. Any incremental revenue that Yahoo! can generate from an increased partnership with Apple would not only boost Yahoo!'s reputation among developers and Silicon Valley, it would help reinvigorate growth at core Yahoo!, which is what Mayer has been paid handsomely to do.

A large portion of Yahoo!'s share price rise has been due to the increased value of its Asian assets, namely Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan, but core Yahoo! is slowly starting to turn around. Yahoo! was able to demonstrate annual revenue growth for the first time in four years in its fourth quarter. Any additional revenue would continue to show that Mayer is turning core Yahoo! around, and the run up in the stock price is about more than just the Asian assets.

Though no deal is forthcoming between the two companies, the possibilities should make Yahoo! investors reaffirm in their conviction that Mayer is the right person for the job.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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