Apple has acquired social media search and analytics start-up Topsy, a business that specialises in analysing social media including Twitter to provide insights into sentiment on a variety of topics.
The US computer and electronics giant is reported to have paid $200m (about €150m) to buy the company.
Apple confirmed the acquisition but would not say why it bought the company, seen by some analysts as an unusual fit for a mainly hardware-focused business.
"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. Topsy did not respond to requests for comment.
Apple is one of Ireland's biggest private sector employers with 5,000 staff here, mainly based in Cork.
The iPad and iPhone maker often does what it calls 'bolt-on' acquisitions, relatively small deals to acquire technology that then gets integrated into existing or future products. Many of its acquisitions in recent years have been angled toward improving hardware.
This year, it paid a reported $350m for Israeli 3D chip developer PrimeSense Ltd, perceived as an effort to incorporate gesture technology into its devices. And in 2008, it paid a reported $280m for a semiconductor designer that eventually yielded the current line of processors that power the iPhone and iPad.
Apple's main effort in social media has revolved around Ping, a music-centered social sharing network that was at one point integrated into its iTunes app. The service, which lets users post music tracks they liked to a news feed, didn't catch on and was shut down.
It also operates iTunes Radio, an online streaming music service that competes with Pandora and could benefit from Topsy's data on consumer sentiment.
Apple closed 0.9pc lower on Monday and was holding steady in after-hours trading.
Speculation on Apple's motives has focused on the idea that it is looking to beef up customer-facing software. It continually tries to enhance its iPhones, iPads and Macintosh computers in the face of ever-strengthening competition from the likes of Samsung Electronics. (Reuters)