Facebook has finally come out of the closet. Surprisingly however they didn’t introduce a full-fledged Facebook Phone. Instead they chose the Amazon way and build their own experience on top of Android. Can’t say this was exactly something that I was expecting, but it’s certainly something that does make sense. Building an entire operating system from scratch takes enormous amount of resources. Facebook Home shows that the company clearly has what it takes to build a working and engaging user experience. In that sense Facebook could probably very well build an entire OS of their own, if they so choose. Apparently this time around they chose the other option. One of the most critical factors affecting this decision was most likely time. Building an OS from ground up doesn’t just require money and talent, but also enormous amounts of time. In this case Facebook had to come up with a plan that allowed it to enter the mobile market with a more comprehensive approach than what an app allows. Yet, at the same time, making all this happen in a fairly short amount of time and with maximum impact. The Android approach is therefore understandable. Neither Apple’s iOS nor Microsoft’s WindowsPhone allow this level of customization. However, it is interesting that Facebook chose not to monetize Facebook Home in the form of handset revenue. The company could without a doubt have introduced an Android phone of their own, but instead chose to partner up with HTC. I think this in many ways reflects the time factor. Facebook wanted to get something out the door quick and chose the strategy that best matched this goal. In my mind, Facebook Home itself shows signs of something much more than what it currently is. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to think Facebook Home as the company’s first step in a long-term strategy that will carry on well into the future. A small taste of what is to come. Whether Facebook will decide to build a totally new OS or rather a phone with their own layer on top of Android remains to be seen. Yet, Amazons success with the latter strategy is bound to make Zuckerberg to think twice before making up his mind.

Nonetheless eventually we will see the “real” Facebook Phone, I’m fairly certain about this. Currently the company is in a fairly stagnant state. Facebook needs to find new areas and ways to monetize its massive user base in a better way. I don’t see Facebook as a company that would be satisfied to limit itself to just social media. Just like Google didn’t limit itself to just search. Facebook also has the advantage that it can learn from others’ mistakes. Therefore it can achieve big things quicker than what the tech world might have accustomed to. I’m sure being just an app icon on someone else’s device and missing out on the handset revenue is not part of Facebook’s grand plan. The real question is whether playing by Google’s rules is something that Facebook can accept and how long is Google willing to play along.

Edit 16.4.2013

Terry Myerson, Head of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, on Facebook Home: “There is probably a whole team [at Google], devoted to trying to figure out a way to quash it.”

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