Could Facebook’s New Smartphone Project Stand Up Against Apple & Google?
After much talk and rumours, Facebook have decided to jump into the smartphone market by enlisting the help of Taiwanese phone maker HTC. The smartphone, codenamed Buffy, will run on a modified version of Android but will make the social network the centre of its experience.
According to AllThingsD, the phone has only could be released within 12 to 18 months with Android altered to highlight Facebook’s services as well as supporting HTML5 as a platform for applications. While several companies such as HTC and Motorola have developed phones with a dedicated Facebook button, this is the first time that it will be made central to the mobile experience.
A spokesperson told AllThingsD that:
“Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware, manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to brign powerful social experiences to more people around the world”
Only a small amount of information has been revealed overall but the project has been discussed by the social media site for the past two years and is now being led by Facebook Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bret Taylor.
The Future Is Mobile
The move represents what has become the massive shift of social media towards mobile and portable devices. Social media is becoming more ingrained towards smartphones as they can capture an immediate moment and allow users to become more impulsive in how they update their profile. The move has been a long time coming but there are a number of obstacles that need to be overcome if Facebook are to gain a foothold in the market.
The obvious problem is the control that Apple and Google already have on the market. Both sides are trying to fight each other with Ice Cream Sandwich and the potential launch of the iPhone 5 within the next 18 months, This move will only mean that they will up their game further now that Facebook are entering the market. As Buffy will run on Android and not their own operating service, it’s unclear as to how Google will benefit if the venture succeeds, or how much control they have over it, but it ultimately means that Facebook’s mobile prospects aren’t entirely theirs to control.
The second problem is that while it makes sense to have their service at the core function of Buffy, it will either succeed or fail because of its other features. Apps, services, hardware and functionality will all play a huge part as ultimately, its main purpose is being a smartphone and not be just a portable version of Facebook. While they has a membership ranging in the hundreds of millions, that still doesn’t mean that users will flock to their smartphone for that reason alone, meaning that they have to treat these other factors with as much attention as their Facebook functionality.
The final obstacle faced is the 12 to 18 month period between now and the phone’s release. This is more a double-edged sword as not only does it give ample time for Facebook to perfect the phone and have it just right when it’s released, but it also gives Apple and Google time to react and develop their own strategies for counteracting. As mentioned earlier, both companies are busy trying to outclass the other, but this will give them the extra motivation needed to try and dominate the smartphone market.
However, it’s very early days and it’s almost impossible to predict where this will go. Facebook have the financial clout and userbase to make their venture into the smartphone arena a fruitful one. However, their success is dependent on how Apple and Google react to the news and whether they can loosen their grasp on the market.