The company isn’t officially commenting on its smartphone plans, but, the general thinking is that it doesn’t want to lose access to its users when they go mobile.
Relying on the Facebook application through Android, iOS, or Windows Phone is too risky. If Facebook pisses those guys off, they could cut-off Facebook, or severely crimp Facebook’s access to users.
Officially, we’re sure Facebook would utter some nonsense about making phones more social, but deep down it really has a fear of being cut out of a big platform war.
And while it makes sense for Facebook’s business, we’re not sure it’s a good starting point for Facebook’s users.
When Apple made the iPhone, the starting point was, phones suck, we can do better. Sure, part of the reason Apple made the iPhone was because Steve Jobs was worried cell phones would make iPods obsolete. But, Jobs told Walter Isaacson, “We would sit around talking about how much we hated our phones,” saying, “That’s the best motivator of all.”
Andy Rubin worked on mobile phones for years. When he started work on Android, it was because phones were closed. He thought, let’s see if we can make a better phone with an open operating system that’s free for carriers. They can pass on the savings to customers. (He thought he could make money on mobile services.)
Eventually Google bought the company, and poured resources into Rubin’s vision, resulting in the most popular smartphone operating system in the world.
In both cases, the primary motivation for the product wasn’t defensive, it was offensive. It was, let’s go build an amazing product because what’s out there stinks.
Microsoft, which has struggled to gain footing in the smartphone world has operated from a mostly defensive position. It wants to protect the Windows franchise.
Facebook will likewise fail if it’s operating from a defensive position. It has to do more than just try to gain control of its users. It has to provide an answer to the question: “Why am I buying a Facebook phone?”
That’s not an easy question to answer since the iPhone and Android phones are really really good.