Facebook brings it all back Home

Facebook renews its push to mobile - using Google's Android OS

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Facebook brings it all back Home Facebook is expected to strengthen its hand on mobile devices through its Home initiative.
By  Roger Field Published  April 7, 2013

Social networking giant Facebook has ramped up its drive into the mobile space with the launch of Home, an application that works with Android and brings Facebook services more fully to the home screen of smartphones.

Facebook described Home as "the next version of Facebook" and said that while it is not a phone or operating system, it is "also more than just an app".

"Home is a completely new experience that lets you see the world through people, not apps," the firm said.

"We designed Home to be the next version of Facebook. But we also wanted to do something more. We wanted to reimagine the way we all use computing devices to make us more connected and bring us closer to the people we care about."

Home replaces the lock screen and home screen on a smartphone with Facebook feeds, allowing users to keep up to date with their friends' updates without even unlocking their phone.

Home will be available as a free download from the Google Play Store starting April 12. Home works on the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung GALAXY S III and Samsung GALAXY Note II. Home will also work on the forthcoming HTC One and Samsung GALAXY S4, and on more devices in the coming months.

Home will also be available pre-installed on phones through the Facebook Home Program. HTC and AT&T are the first companies working together to deliver a phone with Home. It's called the HTC First and it goes on sale April 12.

Analysts broadly welcomed the initiative, agreeing that it would benefit fans of the social network and also help "embed" the service into the increasingly important medium of mobile.

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, said: "Any broadening of Facebook's appeal on mobile devices would have to be broad-based, and the Android launcher approach allows it to target a huge installed base of hundreds of millions of Android users, which will be a large chunk of Facebook's total user base of more than a billion people."

He added that the service would make it easier for end users to share information and photos. It would also allow Facebook to become "more deeply embedded in the operating system" on mobile devices.

"Since Facebook doesn't make an operating system for mobile devices, this is the next best thing. It will allow Facebook to track more of a user's behaviour on devices, and present more opportunities to serve up advertising, which is Facebook's main business model. And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook's objectives and users' are once again in conflict. Users don't want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both."

He described the project as "a great experiment" for Facebook, entailing far lower risk than developing a phone or an operating system of its own. "If it turns out not to be successful, there will be little risk or loss to Facebook. If it does turn out to be successful, Facebook can build on the model further and increase the value provided in the application over time. The biggest challenge will be that it can't replicate this experience on iOS, Windows Phone or BlackBerry, the three other main platforms."

However, Dawson also warned that operators might have more cause for concern. "For carriers, the risk is that this puts Facebook's communication services front and centre on the device and makes them easier to use and more integrated with the core experience on the device, which should make them easier to use than when they're buried in an app, and should accelerate the shift from carrier services to over the top (OTT) services. It should be a big boost to Facebook Messenger and the associated voice and video services."

Ovum forecasts that social messaging cannibalisation of SMS revenues will grow from $32.6 billion in 2013 to over $86.0 billion in 2020.

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