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.
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.
THE STRATEGY IS GENIUS.
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.