Facebook is doing its own smartphone operating system.
No, seriously. This time we mean it. Maybe. Possibly.
Anyway, that’s what people are saying. So, we suppose it’s worth talking about it.
We can’t envision a circumstance where a Facebook phone makes any sense.
The story goes that Facebook is doing a phone with HTC. HTC makes the hardware, Facebook does the software using a heavily modified version of Android.
Making a smartphone operating system is hard, even if you use Android. Amazon’s Kindle Fire operating system is based on a forked version of Android. It’s not as good as full-on Android.
Perhaps Facebook could do a better job than Amazon, but we have our doubts. Facebook’s mobile app was pretty bad for a long time. It would be difficult to make an entire operating system good.
Besides, the operating system would have to be better than good. iOS and Android are extremely advanced operating systems, so Facebook has to have a compelling reason for users to buy a Facebook phone.
Microsoft, which knows a thing or two about operating systems, is still behind iOS and Android. (No notification centre, weak maps, no built in turn-by-turn directions.) We don’t see how Facebook is going to do a better job than Microsoft.
Then there’s Facebook’s brand. Facebook has a billion users, so everyone loves it, right? Not exactly.
The public has a weird relationship with Facebook. They use it all the time, which makes them sort of hate Facebook. It often pops up in “most hated company” lists.
Would people really get all that excited about a Facebook-branded phone? Is that a brand they really want to latch on to?
Finally, there’s the unanswered question of why? Hopefully Facebook has a good answer to this one.
Just last September CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it didn’t make sense. He pointed out that Facebook has a billion users. Even if it managed to get 10 million Facebook phones in the market, that’s nothing for Facebook.
He said, “We want to build a system which is as deeply as possible integrated into every major device people want to use.”
Making a smartphone operating system that rivals iOS and Android isn’t going to help it get deeper into those platforms. If anything, it’s just going to make Apple inclined to toss Facebook out of iOS.
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