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Apple reportedly in talks to buy Pinterest competitor The Fancy

According to Business Insider sources, Apple is in talks to acquire social commerce site The Fancy in a move meant to kickstart the tech giant's nascent general e-commerce business.

Apple has long been a leader in e-commerce since the Apple online store opened in 1997, followed by iTunes and the company's iOS and Mac App Stores, but it has yet to enter the general e-commerce category. The rumored acquisition would allow Apple to leverage its formidable number of existing active iTunes accounts with credit cards on file, now numbered at over 400 million, in the arena.

The iPhone maker's new PassBook app, which will be included in the upcoming iOS 6, is a step toward bridging the gap between iTunes and general e-commerce, but the software won't allow users to make credit card purchases. This could change if the rumored Fancy acquisition goes through as users would have the ability to make purchases directly and easily from their iDevices. It should be noted, however, that the system as well as the acquisition remains firmly planted in the realm of speculation.

Kanye West visiting The Fancy CEO Jim Einhorn at the company's headquarters in New York.
Source: Kanye West/Twitter

Backed by cofounders of Twitter and Facebook, The Fancy recently gained some notoriety as high-profile figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Kanye West created accounts, the latter even posted a tweet of his visit to the company's headquarters in New York.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is also rumored to have joined the growing network and supposedly met with The Fancy's CEO Jim Einhorn at this year's Allen & Co. Sun Valley retreat which attracts heavyweights from the entertainment, tech and media industries. Cook reportedly lined up a number of meetings during the event, hinting at possible digital media partnerships for Apple TV content and other secret projects.

While The Fancy may not boast as large a following as rival Pinterest, the 20-person startup is "much farther along" in leading users to transactions and currently takes a ten percent cut of each purchase. The site managed to snag a $10 million investment round at a reported $100 million valuation last year which added to the $6 million it raised in 2010.

Apple is no stranger to making strategic acquisitions of smaller tech companies on their way up, evidenced by its recent purchase of app search engine Chomp and Israel-based flash memory maker Anobit. The Siri virtual assistant, widely-advertised as the standout feature of the iPhone 4S was a direct result of a 2011 Apple acquisition. Most recently, the company bought AuthenTec, a biometric security firm well known for its work in fingerprint sensing technologies.