Facebook Phones Home out-googling Google

Facebook on Thursday unveiled its most ambitious attempt yet to enter mobile computing without a device of its own, introducing a new app that replaces the home screen on some Android smartphones. Rumors were swirling that Facebook might actually debut a device of their own, and that the phone would be HTC branded, and.. Facebook’s second collaboration in three years. Facebook also announced a special version of Home will come pre-installed on the new HTC First phone on AT&T. “Today we’re finally gonna talk about that Facebook Phone…,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said jokingly to kick off Thursday’s event. “You’re going to be able to transform your Android phone into a great mobile device.”

Known as  “Home,” the new software lets users comprehensively modify Android, the popular mobile operating system developed by Google, to prominently display their Facebook newsfeed and messages on the home screens of a wide range of devices – while hiding other apps.. many of whom are bound to be google’s, eg google now and the markeplace. I wonder how the good folks at google are going to react? I would guess with a Home screen of their own.

The “Home” software will be available for download for free from Google Play starting April 12. The BBC  highlighted some security fears: “Facebook’s “home” software for Android phones could “destroy” privacy, home is a “wrapper” for Android and puts Facebook feeds on a phone’s main screen. But the detailed data that could be mined from home users could intrude on private life, commentators warned. Many took issue with the claim that home put people, not apps, at the heart of the mobile experience, saying it would help Facebook sell ads.”

Security concerns aside, this plan had been in the works for years and required a partner, wired reports;

Of course, Facebook couldn’t just come out with what is, essentially, an Android homescreen. It needed something to reskin, so it worked with HTC to release the first phone with Facebook Home, the aptly named HTC First. It’s a mid-level handset with decent enough specs and a bland hardware design. Yep, another rectangle with rounded edges and home button. (Surprise! It looks a whole lot like an iPhone.) But that’s almost beside the point. You’ll see Facebook Home on a whole lot of phones — and soon — because it’s designed to work on any Android handset.”

Commenting on Facebook’s announcement , Victor Basta, managing director of Magister Advisors, said:

“Facebook’s move is a classic case of ‘out-googling’ Google.  By going ‘over the top’ of Google’s prized Android operating system, Facebook is doing to Google exactly what Google did to the Internet, sitting on top of a chaotic system, making it simple and uniform through a proprietary layer, and underpinning this with deep search functionality.  In Facebook’s case it happens to be sitting on top of Google’s prized Android OS supported by the depth of Graph Search.”

“The clear strategic threat is that it could dramatically reduce the value of Google’s investment in Android, and Google has zero say in this, since unlike Apple, they do not control what happens within the Android eco-system.”

“The bigger picture is that Google, Facebook and Apple are now all effectively competing for the same sources of value, and therefore the market valuations of all three companies increasingly represent the ‘pie’ from which each company is taking a slice.  In future, what drives Facebook’s valuation up is more likely to drive Google and/or Apple down. This is a three–way fight in which everyone else marginalised.”

“Facebook are clearly hell-bent on breaking Google’s hegemony in search through a combination of Graph Search and deeper mobile device integration. What’s interesting and significant about the steps that Facebook are taking with search is that they stem from a behavioural understanding of the user base.  Graph Search is powered by the behaviour and choices of “people like us” wherever we are.”

“They’ve made a big play today of Chat Head, but what they’re actually talking about is ‘Chat Nav’, which has enormous commercial potential.  As communities share views and opinions in new ways it transforms the nature of online commerce.  People and interest-based search is emerging as the driver for Facebook’s next $100bn of value.’

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