Facebook has found a new home on Android, so to speak, as the social networking giant at a news conference earlier today unveiled a Home launcher, a new feature for select Android devices which marries cherry-picked Facebook applications to a beautiful user interface described as putting “people first in an app first world.”
Alongside the new software shell, Mark Zuckerberg and HTC’s Peter Chou announced the HTC First, an Android smartphone born out of the collaboration between Facebook and HTC which runs the Home interface. Zuckerberg confirmed his company will be rolling out the new launcher to select Android devices beginning April 12, as a free app download from Google’s Play Store.
But what about iOS? iPhone users are unfortunately shut out. Initially hiding behind ‘Apple’s walled-garden’ argument, Zuckerberg in wide-ranging interviews with Forbes and Wired.com shed more light on the matter…
When asked during the presser whether or not Home would make it to the iPhone, the young Facebook chief initially responded rather cryptically:
We have a great relationship with Apple. Anything that happens with Apple is going to happen with partnership. Google’s Android is open so we don’t have to work with them.
He added shortly after unveiling the new Home launcher:
The great thing about Android is that it’s so open. Because of Google’s commitment to openness, you can have experiences on Android that you can’t have anywhere else.
Asked by Wired.com whether he thought Facebook would be able to release Home for iOS in two years, he quipped that “it’s above my pay grade to be able to answer that.”
And responding to the publication’s observation that Facebook’s mobile strategy appears to now revolve largely around Android, he said:
We have a pretty good partnership with Apple, but they want to own the whole experience themselves. There aren’t a lot of bridges between us and Google, but we are aligned with their open philosophy.
And why not just build a Facebook Phone, as some have hoped?
I’ve always been very clear that I don’t think that’s the right strategy. We’re a community of a billion-plus people, and the best-selling phones—apart from the iPhone—can sell 10, 20 million.
If we did build a phone, we’d only reach 1 or 2 percent of our users. That doesn’t do anything awesome for us. We wanted to turn as many phones as possible into “Facebook phones.”
That’s what Facebook Home is.
In an interview with Fortune, the 29-year-old CEO went on to sing Google’s praises:
I think that Google has this opportunity in the next year or two to start doing the things that are way better than what can be done on iPhone through the openness of their platform.
We’d love to offer this on iPhone and we just can’t today. And we will work with Apple to do the best experience that we can within what they want, but I think that a lot of people who really like Facebook – and just judging from the numbers, people are spending a fifth of their time in phones on Facebook, that’s a lot of people.
This could really tip things in that direction. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
This line is gold:
Of course, a lot of people also love iPhones – I love mine, and I would like to be able to deliver Facebook Home there as well.
He appears to have left the door open to the possibility of Home for iOS by remarking that this third phase Facebook is about to go into is on Android, but “at some point” hopefully will be available on Apple’s iOS.
This would require Apple to open up the Lock screen to third-party developers and there’re no indications the company is planning such a major iOS change in the immediate future.
Of Facebook’s “Hacker Way” of doing things, Zuck said:
It really is our philosophy for how we build stuff. There are a bunch of companies that try to make every release perfect, and Apple is the best at that.
That’s wonderful, but there’s another way of doing things that’s potentially even better over the long term – allow yourself room to experiment and don’t try to make each individual release as polished as possible.
As for the open vs. closed argument, I think this one’s a bit long in the tooth.
Still, it does make Zuck’s point to a certain extent as Apple itself acknowledges that it reviewed every single one of the more than 800,000 App Store submissions “to guard against malware.”
Contrast this to other mobile platforms that “have a myriad of fragmented store options, resulting in availability issues, developer frustration, and security risks,” Apple’s Why iPhone web page reads.
On the other hand, Facebook’s flirting with Google’s fragmented Android platform means nearly half of Android users won’t get Facebook Home because the feature will not run on Android 2.3 Gingerbread or lower devices.
According to Google’s own data, 45.6 percent of Android devices don’t satisfy the criteria.
So, what do you make of Zuckerberg’s comments regarding Home for iOS?
Is that even something you’d want to have on your iPhone?