Facebook Home, Google and Android: who wins and who loses?

After the [url=http://mobiforge.com/news-comment/overview-facebook-home-and-how-install-android]Overview of Facebook Home and how to install it on Android[/url], it’s time to have a look at Facebook Home from a business and developer perspective.

From a strategic point of view, [b]Facebook Home[/b] certainly [b]has the potential[/b] to capture Android users, divert them away from Google’s services and draw them closer to the Facebook platform. So it is certainly a threat to Google in that it reduces Android’s flexibility, and therefore the strength of Google’s position.

Right now, Facebook is in great shape in terms of audience and currently has more than a billion users. For this reason, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes to take advantage of the few restrictions Google applies when it comes to developing apps for Android. In doing this, Zuckerberg is building an entire ecosystem in which Facebook becomes the main brand on Android.

Facebook Home cannot simply be considered a launcher, even if it has many features of a launcher; it harnesses content users are keen to share online and makes that content accessible and shareable with just one click, without having to open an external app. If there is a serious market for low-cost Android smartphones primarily for social media ― with some games and entertainment thrown in ― then Facebook Home could become the default way users interact with those devices. High end tech-savvy users seem to be only part of the plan and the goal seems to be to attract a broader audience who are interested in easy-to-use, entertaining services on mobile.

The fact that Facebook Home is only available on Android is due largely to its reach and Android’s largely open status. Brands can build new apps that all but bypass Google, in stark to the tight control Apple exerts over iOS.

By being ‘open source’, Google risks losing control of Android, losing strength in the market and may risk simply becoming an OS vehicle for other third-party branded initiatives.


With Home, Facebook is attempting to [b]build a unique social brand[/b] capable of moving across platforms and this marks the cards of other players, not least Google Plus. Google’s nearest equivalent to Home is Google Now which pulls information from all of Google’s services and acts like a predictive information service. Although it is available on both [url=http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/29/tech/mobile/google-now-iphone/index.html?sr=sharebar_twitter]Android and iOS[/url] the difference between the two, in terms of social networking, are vast and only solvable for Google if they can move people onto its Google Plus service and away from Facebook.


What would happen if Facebook added a search bar to Home? While most Android devices have a Google Search bar right now, everything would change if Facebook added its own search feature. Don’t forget that Facebook has partnered with Bing and has developed the new Graph Search which may become one of the key features on mobile once the desktop version has rolled out. Bing could potentially replace Google search on mobile or help Facebook to develop its own search engine for mobile if that were to happen.

[b]Zuckerberg has said[/b] that Facebook has no intention of changing the search habits of smartphone users and at the moment it’s not difficult for users to open a mobile browser and to search the web with Google.
But how sure can Google be that this won’t change? [url=http://www.zdnet.com/report-yahoo-bing-traffic-growth-surpassed-google-in-q3-7000006463/]Bing’s network traffic growth surpassed Google[/url] on desktop search last year, so that will be something that Google are watching closely.

From a [b]developer perspective[/b], there are already many flavours of Android out there such as Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense and Amazon’s Fire devices. Whether or not Facebook Home stays in that category remains to be seen, but this approach certainly gives them a great means to test and measure uptake of a deeper Facebook mobile experience.

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