Facebook Home: Great Idea, Horrid Execution

By Rob Enderle April 09, 2013

There are two parts to a successful product: the idea, otherwise known as the easy part, and execution, or the part folks either get wrong or don’t get done. Apple came up with the PDA first but it took Palm to get it right, Microsoft had the mass-produced tablet first but it took Apple to get it right and Tesla came up with the idea of wireless power and we are still waiting for someone to get that right. Facebook Home is a great idea, but the execution would be like coming up with an idea of a secure gated community in a high-crime area but implementing rules that would seem harsh in Cuba or a prison. The idea to create an Apple-like experience on an Android phone is a good one, but the execution of making the result even more limiting than Apple, not so much. Let me explain.

Apple vs. Android

Apple’s iOS has a number of advantages over the Android platform. It is significantly more secure, more consistent and there is a great deal of control over the user experience compared to Android. Android is very flexible, but the user experience is badly fragmented and it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of the Android product in the market really isn’t under Google’s control. So with Android you get a ton of freedom but little consistency or safety, and with Apple you get a ton of consistency and safety, but not a whole lot of freedom (you even have to use its unique power plugs). The idea of taking Android and creating something more balanced would seem to be a good idea. 

Amazon Showing The Way

The concept of turning an Android device into something that truly could rival an Apple product was first done well by Amazon with its Kindle offerings. But Amazon, much like Apple did with iTunes, made its product the front end for its host of existing offerings and users could still load and integrate a number of other things, like third party apps, e-mail and Netflix (even though it competes with Amazon’s own Prime movie services). Currently Amazon appears to be outselling even Apple with its seven-inch Kindle products and it is rumored to be working on a phone. With an example like Amazon, how could Facebook go wrong?

Facebook Home

What Facebook created, however, would be like if NBC decided to bring out an NBC-only TV. RCA kind of pulled this off but, at that time, RCA owned all of the then-existing networks. This is like Apple: you can have a very closed environment if your environment has critical mass, but even it allows Netflix and Amazon apps in its store because it has learned painfully that if a device doesn’t run what folks want to run, even Microsoft Office, they won’t buy the device, no matter how pretty it is.  

Facebook’s new Facebook Home is a Window into Facebook only. No Twitter, no LinkedIn, no Exchange. It reminds me of what might happen if someone decided to create a gated community and took the rules that would govern it out of a prison. Instead of creating balance like Amazon did with more consistency and a critical mass of capabilities, Facebook created a platform even more restrictive than Apple’s and that is simply more restriction than most, who aren’t Facebook employees, are likely going to accept.   

Facebook is well short of the critical mass of apps, features and capability to replace Google’s home screen.  

Wrapping Up: Good Idea, but…

The idea of taking Google’s platform away from Google and monetizing it is a good one – hell, Amazon has done extremely well with the Kindle when it did this. But you first need a critical mass of services and capabilities, or, like Amazon and Apple, you have to have credible third parties to fill those gaps.    Facebook has neither and thus, while Facebook Home is a good idea, it likely will fall short of expectations when it comes to users using it. Folks would all like a more secure consistent life, but they don’t want to move into a prison to get it. Facebook is way too close to providing a prison-like experience that consumers will avoid, and a failure of this magnitude likely will have people once again doubting Facebook’s long-term prospects.   

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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