Facebook Makes its Home on Android, Evicts Google

by Matt Klassen on April 8, 2013

On April 4th Facebook took the wraps off its latest plans for the mobile market, a radically modified Android overlay the social network has dubbed, Facebook Home. As company CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained, Facebook’s goal was to create a software package that would take over messaging, key communications, and operate more like “system software, not an app you run.”

To that end, Facebook Home is, for all intents and purposes, a stand alone operating system, the most comprehensively customized version of Android we’ve seen outside of the Android ecosystem itself. It’s almost as if Facebook has done all the leg work of creating its own branded operating system on its own branded smartphone…without doing either.

In fact, many hail this as a veritable Facebook coup, the social network using the free and open source nature of Google’s Android OS to instantly create a mobile footprint; becoming a competitor with Google at all the latter’s important revenue points and using Android’s market share to do it. As ZDNet writer Larry Dignan summarizes, “Facebook can hit the monetization, juice the experience, target tablets and basically circle all of Google’s touch points. From a business perspective, Facebook Home is a work of art.”

The issue at hand is of course Android fragmentation, that unlike closed proprietary operating systems like Apple’s iOS, Google really has no control over what the end product of Android looks like, so long as it provides users access to Google’s own suite of products and, of course, serves as a platform for Google’s advertising. But that aside, Facebook Home has changed Android, giving users the “highest quality experience you can have” on the operating system… that is if you live on the social network I suppose.

While many are interested to see if Facebook can parlay this Android coup into true mobile success, one would have to guess that Google nor any other Android partner is terribly happy with Facebook or with HTC, Facebook’s de facto partner. The social network has, with one fell swoop, established itself as a mobile player, competing both with the likes of Samsung and Motorola for customers and with Google for Android generated revenues.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at all that the Android ecosystem is finally rising up against its Google master. We’ve seen it already with  Samsung’s Galaxy S4, where the company touted its own ‘S’ apps over Google’s expansive Android selection, and with Amazon’s Kindle, the completely retooled OS not even recognizable as an Android product.

Of course Facebook’s mobile coup will only be successful if people are truly interested in turning their phones into a people experience, rather than the multi-faceted computing platforms smartphones are today. If people are willing to sacrifice productivity and versatility for a deeply embedded social experience, Facebook will likely beat Google at its own game…the only problem is, I don’t think anyone wants a social phone.

In the end, there’s no question that Facebook’s complete retooling of Android is a slap in Google’s face, the social network creating an Android overlay that essentially allows it to turn any Android phone into a Facebook phone, particularly given the fact that Facebook will take over the mobile ads you see on your phone, Google’s only revenue connection with Android. Clever business strategy and marketing acumen aside, however, and we’re still left with a Facebook social phone that no one wants. Maybe we’ll call this one a draw.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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