You cannot put your future in a competitor’s hands. So what do you do? Do you enter uncharted territory, make your own mobile operating system, and hope people switch?
Of course not. You make your competitor’s system yours — overnight. Facebook Homeis a trojan horse designed to steal the Android experience, and the Android user base, right out of Google’s hands. The majority of speculation over the last year or two had been that Facebook was working on its own mobile OS. It may well be, but this move is so much smarter on a number of fronts:
- Time. Home significantly increases Facebook’s mobile presence without being everything. A lot of time and care seems to have gone into it, but it’s surely far less than a full-blown operating system would require.
- Installed base. Built in. The sales pitch is very simple: If you have a device that Home supports, download it. No money, no switcher headaches. Blackberry and Windows Phone sales prove that people aren’t looking for new platforms right now.
- Software Experience. Facebook’s engineers have surely learned a lot from this project. That experience will be reapplied not only to expanding Home itself, but to building a full-blown OS if they want.
Hardware Experience. While the software is the real news here, Facebook took the initiative to also start working with a handset maker. The HTC First is hardly a “Facebook phone”, but it’s a chance for Facebook to experience the complexity of coordinating hardware, software, and carrier partnerships from a distance. Remember the Motorola ROKR? Remember what happened fifteen months later?
- HTC was the obvious choice. Samsung and Android have ruined them, and they’re desperate to stay relevant. Facebook likely got everything they asked for.