Nov 3rd, 2010

facebook-logoHere I am in Palo Alto, California less than a mile from Facebook’s Headquarters, eagerly awaiting the mobile announcement they’re making tomorrow. I’m sure you are too, especially since they’ve made it a point to invite Android-focused websites such as yours truly.

Nobody can say for sure what they’ll announce, but let’s poll you Android enthusiasts to see what the mobile loving public thinks is most  likely. Below, I’ll provide some further insight of my own.

Here are some of my own thoughts on each:

Facebook Phone
This wouldn’t come completely out of left field, but if the Facebook Phone really WERE being announced than Zuckerberg and company have done an amazing job keeping it under wraps. My pessimism in this potential reality is that Facebook’s competitive advantage isn’t in making hardware, but instead creating software and leveraging social.

This is the same reason I denounced the gPhone. I was at least half wrong since Google announced the Nexus One, but even they have backtracked on this initiative, realizing that hardware isn’t their competitive advantage and neither were two byproducts of that: sales distribution and customer support.

Instead, I think very significant software announcements are more likely.

Improved Facebook Application
Facebook has mobile applications on all the major platforms, but they don’t exactly offer the best user experience. They also aren’t very full featured. I personally see an improved Facebook App as an obvious announcement… but not the only announcement.

I think an “improved app” could also see features that Facebook itself doesn’t offer thus far, incorporating them back into the site. Think of things that Google has tried to announce but fallen a little bit flat on:

  • Facebook version of Google Buzz
  • Facebook version of Google Latitude
  • Facebook version of GTalk
  • Facebook version of Paypal/Google Checkout
  • Facebook version of Twitter – offering “micro status updates” when mobile
  • Facebook version of Google Business Reviews

These are just some random ideas I threw together, but ones I think would be logical from the standpoint of business development and leveraging Facebook’s assets. On the one hand, Facebook could announce these as integrated parts of their improved app or new, standalone applications. Or they could announce…

Facebook OS built on Android
In the above, Facebook would be building new apps and features and offering them for free on as many operating systems as possible. With a “Facebook OS built on Android”, the largest social networking site in the world would leverage Android to create their own spin-off mobile OS.

Think of it like this: what if HTC allowed any manufacturer to use HTC Sense on their phone and call it a “Sense Phone”. What if Motorla worked with partners and allowed them to build “Blur Phones”? This isn’t likely because manufacturers working with their direct competitors in this manner doesn’t seem like it makes a lot of sense… but if FACEBOOK approached HTC, Motorola, etc… and asked them if they would like to leverage a Facebook OS built on Android and pre-load it on their phones?

That makes a little more sense.

Facebook Market
Android Market has it’s pros and cons, but it’s hard to contest the notion that there are a TON of apps and games and it’s not always easy to find what you want let alone find things you didn’t yet know you wanted. People are on Facebook all day – yes, I’m talking to you person at work right now reading this article in a cubicle while you look over your shoulder. Facebook also has apps and games and doohickeys for download, but what if they could unify the experience on a mobile device?

I’m pretty sure Facebook could convince manufacturers/carriers to include a “Facebook Market” on their phone by default. Actually, I don’t think it would take a lot of convincing if it had something unique and awesome to offer. And heck, worst case scenario they could offer it for download in Android Market.

There aren’t a ton of really huge competitors to Android Market in terms of discovering and downloading Android apps, but if Facebook wanted to make a splash here I’m sure they could. The question is, how much will they gain from this in the long run?

If they’re only looking to build value on mobile, I don’t think there is much to gain. If, however, they’re looking to build an iTunes like presence then I think the reverse value it could bring to the desktop, laptop, and other devices could make some sense and start to drive momentum.

Facebook Tools for Mobile Developers
Regardless of what Facebook announces, I feel like this has some level of inevitability. Whether they’re announcing a phone, a better app with new features, completely new features/opportunites, a Facebook OS built on Android, Facebook Market or something else, they’ll want 3rd parties to extend the capabilities of their device.

Something Else
Leave your own thoughts, comments, guesses and possibilities in the comments!