Facebook Phone?

By Gary Kim April 01, 2013

Whether a “Facebook” phone, or something like it, will soon be available remains a bit of a mystery. What is perhaps a more important question is how much such a device, optimized for Facebook, might affect end-user perception of the value of carrier-provided voice and messaging, assuming the Facebook phone supports full user-to-user voice and messaging, directly from the phone.

The fact that any future device using a Facebook operating system (perhaps a customized version of Android, as Amazon did for its Kindle) would use the mobile phone network and the Internet, illustrates the blurring line between the “Internet” and the “telephone network.”

On the other hand, any Facebook phone would also illustrate a similar principle at work in both the Internet application and traditional telecom businesses – namely the attempt to gain business advantage in a “closed” environment.

In a sense, a Facebook phone featuring over-the-top messaging and voice would be similar, in market impact, to Skype or WhatsApp – competing with “for fee” carrier voice and text messaging services.

But any such Facebook device also illustrates a couple of important principles about the developing nature of communications and content businesses built on the use of networks.

And that developing reality is that the “networks” do not matter as much as they used to. That doesn’t mean the networks are unimportant.

But both Internet and “telecom” ecosystems now are loosely coupled, compared to the tight coupling of the past. In a business sense, that means application providers don’t necessarily have a direct business relationship with access providers.

Even if Facebook winds up creating and supporting an operating system, not a “device,” that OS is expected to take concrete form in the form of one or more devices and would simply allow more users, more of the time, to communicate using voice and text with other people using the Internet – not their mobile service provider services.

To be sure, some think a Facebook phone would have a hard time getting traction. No matter; the trend is clear enough.

Devices and apps increasingly are loosely coupled to the access networks, and more of the value of any communications or content experience comes from devices and apps, not the actual delivery network.

And that is chipping away at the value of carrier-provided voice and messaging. But you knew that.

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing Editor

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