April 04, 2013

Facebook Home Upsets the Apple Cart, Microsoft Can't be Pleased Either


Over the next few days, a lot will be written about Facebook Home, the social networking colossus’s latest push to dominate all of the time we spend online, increasingly on our mobile devices. In fact, for a fast education on what was announced, read my colleague Amanda Ciccatelli’s fine account of the Facebook Home introduction. 

And while the focus of much that will be on what “Home” is and what it does or doesn’t do, reality is that what it does for Facebook’s positioning against rivals like Google and Apple and a few others – and the ripple effects through the various ecosystems this will have – is why this is terrific food for thought. 

It’s all about the future structure of the online world, and who gets the spoils.

As those of you who follow me know, I’ve written on numerous occasions about the tectonic shifts in ecosystems, as the 800 pound gorillas—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and in theory Yahoo and AOL—vie for the attention of our eyeballs on the assumption that our hearts and dollars, and the dollars of advertisers who want our awareness, consideration and dollars, will follow.

They each come with their respective strengths and weaknesses based on the importance to us at any given moment of our devices, apps, browsers, search engines and OS, and laying odds on who will win is good sport for industry touts. 

With mobile being the great frontier of the information age Facebook had to make a move, and this one makes sense. 

As Facebook CEO said, he was not interested in making even a great phone that would capture a small fraction of his user base; he is interested in Facebook centrality of the mobile world. Whether Facebook Home ends up being where the heart is remains problematic at best. Facebook correctly turned to the Android for coming out of the box, because like bank robbers, you need to go where the money is (in this case the users), and as an interesting piece in the Guardian points out citing a recent Garter Group forecast, Android-based mobile devices are pulling away from the pack as the OS of choice. 

You have to go with the flow. 

The Guardian article in fact was about how Microsoft, because of its soft position in mobile devices, was imperiled as people’s devices of preference move away from Windows PCs and laptops and rapidly toward smartphones and tablets. In fact, given that the Redmond giant is and has been well aware of all of this for some time, and fully understands that between Google eating away at its control of users via a search, Chrome, Android and now Motorola, they may have more to lose in the long term than Apple in the ecosystem wars, and should have been all over Facebook to at least throw them a bone here.

It should also be noted that the choice of HTC is an interesting one, since Facebook deftly ducked a face-to-face with Google with adoption of Android as its first platform, and stayed out of ratcheting up industry antagonisms by not going first to Samsung.  

And what about Apple? Aficionados are going to say they have a Facebook app on their iPhones and iPads and that having Facebook be the “first look” is of marginal utility, even given its integration with other apps. 

I happen to resonate with this, even though I have an HTC phone. Facebook is fine where it is on my screen as an app, and other than potentially be something that enterprises eventually have to crack down on because of the siren call to keep it open and have mobile device users interacting too often, I think this is going to be a hard sell with some unintended consequences. This is particularly true as we head into an era where that single BYOD can separate our work and personal personae and IT departments really start reasserting their control over mobile device and applications and all things related to identity management. 

These are in fact items we will be exploring at the TMC SecureIT: Protecting Your Enterprise in A BYOD event, on July 23, 2013 in New York.

Will Facebook be successful in further occupying more and more of our time, and in theory provide investor satisfaction if they can crack the mobile advertizing challenge? Like I said, it is problematic. I’m reminded of somebody telling me early in my career to never underestimate the ability of rational consumers to be able to understand even the smallest differences in capabilities and make choices that are personally beneficial. We are all accustomed to using various online capabilities for different things, and might chaff at being monopolized in the way Facebook Home is positioned. 

If nothing else, Facebook has caused the deck to be reshuffled, and while Apple is likely to have a bit taken out of it, Microsoft needs to come up with a response and sooner rather than later.

As the ecosystem wars rage on, who does what to whom and when will be fun to watch. It’ll also be nice for handicapping winners and losers.  I for one can’t wait for the next big move.




Edited by Braden Becker



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