Facebook’s new initiatives…complete misstep or genius?

On April 4th Facebook finally had their press conference and introduced the Facebook “Home” app along with a mobile device in cooperation with HTC and ATT called the HTC First (previously named the Myst) and there has been quite a lot of frenzy or rather criticism over Zuckerberg’s strategy to move into the mobile industry. Two of our fellow classmates kmalenich and katiejones18 wrote perceptive articles about the initiative and brought forth the question when is enough, enough? The consensus from the class seemed to be that they have had enough of Facebook; many comments insightfully remarked that Facebook was wandering too far from their core competency and that if given the choice they would not purchase the Facebook Phone. I even commented and agreed with the general consensus with the below statement:

“…Facebook can basically be used on any system so what exactly is the point of having a Facebook focused phone?”

So what is making me change my mind? After reading an article in Forbes, I realized how hasty my decision was and now I do believe that a Facebook phone has a high potential to shake up the cellular industry. Through this post I hope to share with you my mind frame from beginning to end and why I believe that the Facebook’s phone idea may have potential.

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The HTC First, is coming to AT&T exclusively on Friday, April 12th for a reasonable price of $99. Not much specs have been released about the phone, the only thing we know is running on a Facebook-modified android platform. The announcement of the Facebook phone wasn’t really ground sweeping, in fact, most people, including me, believed it to be absurd. Even Zuckerberg in July of 2012, stated that a Facebook phone wouldn’t really make much sense. Rather than perceiving the Facebook phone as innovative, it just seemed like Zuckerberg was trying to squeeze Facebook out for all its worth. Popsci.com published an article criticizing the phone, stating blatantly that “no one wants a Facebook phone”. All of the arguments were very valid and aligned with a lot of what we talked about in class. Facebook doesn’t have the “first-mover” advantage, a key factor in why Netflix was so successful and also a reason why IPhones and Android phones have so much market share. There just simply seems to be no room for another platforms like the Windows phone, much less the Facebook phone. Another example of the “first-mover” advantage is Amazon. Amazon strayed away from its core competency by investing in tablets, however Popsci asserts that whereas Amazon offered the first affordable and decent tablet, Facebook has nothing to offer. So now you may wonder why I still support the Facebook’s initiative when the arguments against it are so valid. Simply put, I think that Popsci’s notion, that the Facebook has nothing to offer, is wrong and after reading the Forbes article, I actually think that an entrant with a different perception of mobile devices is just what the cellular industry needs to advance.

Since Facebook is a social networking services it has lots and lots of data and it runs differently than a cellular platform. Android phones and IPhones are controlled by their carriers and have yet to update to HD calling whereas a Facebook Phone could tackle this problem through a Voice over IP based service meaning that calls are made through broadband rather than the Public Switched Telephone Network. Phone numbers through the Facebook phone would become irrelevant because the SIP using Voice or IP uses email addresses rather than numbers, which means that two people who have a Facebook phone could just click on each others pictures to make a call. A Facebook phone would also be able to reduce the cost of plans, in fact even make it free, because of how many ads the phone is streaming. Now I know it sounds like a pain because everyone hates ads, however it’s really not that bad! I’m currently using a free texting service called text+, and the barely noticeable ads on the bottom of the screen are what enable me to text for free. Lastly, Facebook has announced an alliance with unity technology that would make rich multi-player games on a mobile device stream seamlessly.

There are a lot of people who think that the Facebook phone is completely useless and I believe that this is just a short-term view. We spend 18% of our mobile time on Facebook and Facebook users post more photos, write more status updates and hit the like button more often from mobile devices than they do from computers. It is almost inevitable that Facebook would introduce a smartphone that put its social network front and center. Moving towards the mobile industry will also rake in massive profit because there will be more mobile advertising. Google, in the future, may also lose a chuck of revenue because Facebook Search Graph may become the default search engine for anyone with Facebook Home. On the issue of privacy, most people should probably note that Google also combs through the emails you sent or received, the YouTube videos you watch, and the things you search for on Google.  So what do you think, has Facebook gone past their limit or have I maybe, just maybe, changed your opinion ever so slightly? Comment Below!

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4 thoughts on “Facebook’s new initiatives…complete misstep or genius?

  1. I had no idea that the facebook phone had so much going for it until I read this article. I guess it makes some sense for facebook to want to crack into the mobile industry so that they will no longer be at the mercy of Apple and Google whose devices the facebook app is used on. The fact that the advertising will reduce the cost of the plan to use the phone is really amazing. I was watching a video the other day about a debate over the facebook phone and they believed that the advertisements, like you believe, really are not that big a deal. It does seem like there are some real benefits to having facebook home on one’s phone. Originally, it looked like attempting to do something like this was going away from facebook’s core competency, but now after reading this it appears as if they really thought this out well and there are true factors that could draw people to adapt this new Facebook phone. I really enjoyed reading your post and I thought the use of the survey was very neat, I have yet to see one on any blogs.

  2. I think you made some very good points about possible benefits of the phone. Also, the poll is a very cool idea. I didn’t realize how much this Facebook phone could be such a game changer, I thought that it would just try to copy the existing smart phones to try to use their brand to make money. I do agree that it is smart for Facebook to try to get into the cell phone business to compete with Apple and Google, and after reading your article I can see how they might be able to make a dent in the industry.

  3. I think the common perception people have is that it’s continuous change, addition and innovations are annoying to the typical user. However, I think it’s what they need to do to stay relevant and on top of the social media industry. People will warm up to Facebook’s phone, and with all of the features that you described, I’m sure it will happen sooner rather than later. I thought the most interesting point you made in your post was about the privacy concern people will have with a Facebook phone. I am always careful when apps ask me to log in with Facebook, and I’m sure that concern is not mine alone. However, your point that we willingly give information to Google in the same capacity made me realize that, since I am comfortable using Google, I will also be comfortable using the Facebook phone.

  4. Nice, thorough post. I really didn’t know too much about the Facebook phone before reading this article. Like many others, I kind of thought it was a wasted of Facebook’s time and money-like you pointed out, it strays away from their core competency. Or does it? Facebook, more than anything, has data. More data than we can imagine. And they feed off of this data. So, if we are increasingly connected to our phones, and we are the sources of data, why not have those two ends meet and create a Facebook phone? I still do think it is a little ambitious, but after reading your post I am convinced that it has some potential.

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