So Facebook have made the move to being a 'mobile best' company, with the launch of Facebook Home yesterday. One question though, is that are we seeing the operator portal 2.0? Something that perhaps will only be answered over time.
It's been clear over the last couple of years from the shift in its user-base, that Facebook needed a way to make money on mobile. On the web, it relies on advertising to generate most of its revenue, something that's a little hard to replicate without ruining the user experience on a mobile device. It means that Facebook has had to think long and hard about how it moves in mobile. It knows that it represents the future of the service. The sheer amount of data our devices have on us is enough to make us blush. Those heavy nights out, yes alcohol may have clouded your memory, but not your phone's. Oh no. Hell if you throw mobile payments in there too, it opens up oceans of data.
It wasn't long ago that everyone thought that Apple were going to be the ones to integrate Facebook further in to the iPhone, only for it to choose Twitter instead. What the launch of Facebook Home makes me think is that perhaps Apple wanted to integrate Facebook originally, but it would have never let them dominate the home screen in the way it's doing with Android. With perhaps less grandiose ideas for mobile integration, Twitter became Apple's preference.
It's no secret that Android devices dominate emerging smartphone markets. An open operating system that runs across a huge number of devices at different ends of the cost scale. Late last year, Facebook also made it clear that it was seeing huge growth in mobile users from emerging markets. More often than not, the mobile phone is the single point of internet access for those in emerging markets and for Facebook this represents a huge opportunity to be front-and-centre of that experience with Home. The opportunity here is clear, especially in those markets where mobile payments and micro-payments is the norm.
Facebook has said that Home will initially launch on April 12 in the US across Android smartphones and then will be rolled out across the world. It's teamed up with HTC to develop the HTC First, where Home is baked in, straight out of the box. The handset will launch across Europe in the Summer and i'm sure these mid-range devices will fly off the shelf, perhaps not with teenagers as less and less of their time seems to be on Facebook (great piece on this from The Verge).
Facebook has always had mixed reactions to changes it's made, or services it's developed and usually, i've been a neigh-sayer. With Facebook Home though, i think they could be on to something. Facebook launching a device never really made much sense to me, you don't want to get involved in hardware wars, it's too expensive. Launching a flavour of Android, something that can give Facebook prominence on what is the most popular operating system (fragmentation aside) is a smart move and opens up further opportunities to monetise and market to an increasingly mobile audience.
Facebook Home does look really nicely polished and we won't really be able to get a true idea of it until it launches, but ultimately it seems that Facebook has remembered that you don't have to be first, you just have to be the best.