A phone in app’s cloth­ing

Face­book’s new Home app goes way be­yond pic­tures and sta­tus up­dates to spear­head­ing the com­pany’s fierce bat­tle with Google and defin­ing its role in mo­bile.

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - Simon Din­gle

Google owns the new mil­len­nium. The com­pany still has a bet­ter grasp of com­put­ing in the cloud than its lead­ing com­peti­tors Mi­crosoft and Ap­ple. It con­tin­ues to out­pace the mar­ket in terms of in­no­va­tion and has dom­i­nated mo­bile too. Then came Face­book which, by mak­ing so­cial net­work­ing its de­par­ture point, be­came a front-end to the In­ter­net for mil­lions around the world. It ’s a grow­ing threat to Google’s dom­i­nance and there’s no love lost be­tween the two on­line com­pa­nies.

Face­book has a dire need to nail mo­bile. Google in­ad­ver­tently owns the smart­phone mar­ket, with its An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem that now lives on more smart­phones around the world than on any other plat­form. Google also leads the mar­ket for lo­ca­tion ser­vices, con­tex­tual com­put­ing and mul­ti­ple other rel­e­vant ver­ti­cals. Face­book’s smart ploy is to at­tack Google’s plat­form and wrap it with some­thing that is no less than a par­a­site op­er­at­ing sys­tem.


An­droid’s frag­mented in­ter­face is a mess and while the clean ex­pe­ri­ence of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem on Google-con­trolled Nexus de­vices is very clean and slick, third-party man­u­fac­tur­ers like HTC and Sam­sung are al­lowed to mo­lest and bloat that in­ter­face in their des­per­ate f ight to dif­fer­en­ti­ate. The end re­sult isn’t great for con­sumers.

En­ter Face­book with an app that solves the prob­lem. In­stall Face­book Home and your An­droid phone sud­denly has a clean, in­tu­itive in­ter­face. Your friend’s sta­tus up­dated and pic­tures scroll past the lock screen. Your apps are beau­ti­fully or­gan­ised and you can chat to friends with­out leav­ing the screen you’re in. It takes the messy ex­pe­ri­ence of An­droid that most users have to en­dure and makes it cleaner, fresher and more per­sonal.

In the back­ground, how­ever, Face­book is wrestling the pri­mary re­la­tion­ship with the end user away from Google, Sam­sung or who­ever. In­stead of man­u­fac­tur­ing a Face­book Phone as such, Face­book is hi­jack­ing the phones of other man­u­fac­tur­ers and turn­ing them into a Face­book of­fer­ing. It has also al­lied with HTC to de­velop a prod­uct called the First that comes with the in­ter­face in­stalled out of the box.

Face­book is set to fi­nally con­vince in­vestors that it has a com­pelling mo­bile strat­egy. This games goes to Zucker­berg, but the match isn’t over. And let’s not for­get who owns the un­der­ly­ing plat­form.

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