How Facebook Home Screws Apple

By

facebook-home1

How low will Apple go?

First, Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to grovel and kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party over their obviously false and politically motivated claims about Apple’s warranty.

Now, Apple is being publicly insulted and used by Facebook.

There is no way Steve Jobs would have put up with this kind of humiliating abuse.

Here’s what’s going on.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this week new Android software called Facebook Home. 

To oversimplify, Facebook Home is a layer that sits on top of Android which favors Facebook pictures and messages over all other uses of the phone.

Facebook Home becomes available April 12 for download, and will run on some of the newer Samsung and HTC phones. It will eventually come pre-installed on a bunch of Android phones. Over time, it may function on the majority of global Android handsets counted in the hundreds of millions.

The two most conspicuous features are “Cover Feed,” which is a full-screen, swipeable view of pictures sent on Facebook, and “Chat Heads,” which are the profile pictures of Facebook friends that live in movable circles on top of whatever Android app you’re using. When that person says something, you can chat on a layer over the application.

Let’s look at the big picture here.

Who’s Got the Upper Hand?

The phrase “upper hand” comes from informal neighborhood baseball games.

To decide which team gets to pick who bats first, one guy tosses a baseball bat to another, who grips it where he caught it. Then the tosser grips just above the catcher’s fist, then the catcher grips and so on right up the bat. Whoever ends up laying his hand palm-down on the top of the bat gets to pick — he has the upper hand.

That’s exactly the game everyone in the industry has been playing since the mobile phone has been invented. Carriers, handset makers, mobile OS makers, application developers and others have been using the upper hand system to see who ends up on top and in control of the game.

When Apple came along, carriers had the upper hand. They intended to monetize mobile contracts by selling ringtones, apps and services.

Apple forced carriers to accept a different proposal. Carriers got to make phone and mobil data revenue from the iPhone, and in exchange for that privilege, Apple is the one who gets to sell and control the content. Apple gained the upper hand right from the start, and still has it.

Then Google copied the Apple model, and now the two companies each have the upper hand on their respective platforms.

Except lately Google has been losing it. First, Amazon gained the upper hand with it’s Kindle Fire products. Now, Facebook has gained it with Facebook Home.

By asserting itself as the main interface on Android phones, Facebook gets to decide the default choices for which messaging systems to use (Facebook’s), which photo galleries to use (Facebook’s) and eventually which search engine to use (Facebook’s partner Microsoft), which advertising to display (Facebook’s) and which apps and games to favor (Facebook’s).

Google is losing the upper hand on Android as the price for being open.

There’s no way Apple would ever lose the upper hand and allow even a partner like Facebook to control the user experience on iOS.

How Facebook Home Affects Apple

Everybody’s attention these days is riveted on their phones. And whoever controls what people see when they look at those phones has access to the most powerful business on earth. Phones direct us to advertising and to electronic content.

From a business and platform perspective, Facebook Home is by far the best idea Facebook has ever had.

It gives Facebook the upper hand on the Android phones it’s installed on, and drives up usage, user data available for harvesting and ad exposures. It’s all good for Facebook, as long as Facebook users are using Android phones.

So how is this bad for Apple?

To date, Apple has probably sold more than 500 million iOS device. That’s about half the size of Facebook’s user base. (The actual numbers of users of both iOS and Facebook are probably significantly lower than published numbers.)

Apple’s user base constitutes the most lucrative market in mobile by far. Two data points bear this out: app revenue and online usage. Current Apple users are the ones companies — say, Facebook, for example — wants to advertise to simply because as a group they do more and spend more.

Apple has tremendous power in directing its relatively deep-pocketed, active-using user base toward or away from any social network it chooses by way of integration.

For example, when you take a picture on an iPhone, and click the mini icon showing a box with an arrow pointing out, Apple lets you share via Mail, iMessage, Twitter or Facebook. There are similar integrations on other apps.

Apple does not offer to let you share via the #2 social network, Google+, or Pinterest, Tumblr, Linkedin or Pheed.

Mail and iMessage are Apple’s. But Apple has anointed Twitter and Facebook as the social sites to receive the massive advantage of being the default, built-in sharing services in every iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

This amounts to a massive promotion by Apple of Twitter and Facebook and a huge advantage for those companies.

But while Apple has been promoting the use of Facebook, now Facebook is promoting the use of Android.

People who have become enamored of Facebook now have a very good reason to switch from iPhone to Android in order to get Facebook Home.

Everyday users shopping for phones may now find themselves torn between Apple loyalty and Facebook loyalty. It used to be easy: Just get an iPhone and run Facebook’s app, which was the same on iOS and Android.

But now, some unknown number of Facebook fans will choose their family and friends (via Facebook Home) over Apple. And that choice leads them to Android.

Zuckerberg was also subtly insulting to Apple in the announcement. He said, in a nutshell, that the 30-year-old “UI model” of browsing icons, then opening applications from those icons — you know, like on the iPhone and the iPad — “is actually largely the same.”

Facebook Home with its “Cover Feed” was created to bring the “UI model” into the present day, rather than being stuck in the past like the iPhone is.

And it was built with major input from engineers poached from Apple.

Facebook is playing Apple, big time.

The only major company Facebook is really loyal to is Apple’s competitor, Microsoft, which owns a percentage of Facebook, and whose Bing and Skype technologies complete Facebook’s feature set.

In the announcement, Zuckerberg pointed out that the Home initiative involved partnerships with Apple’s biggest competitors, besides Google itself, including Samsung, HTC, Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo and others. Expect a lot of mutual ass-kissing, back-scratching and favor-doing between Facebook and Apple’s competitors.

More to the point, Facebook Home is about training users to embrace Facebook Messages, a direct competitor to iMessage.

Apple’s willingness to favor and advantage a company that is playing favorites with Apple’s competition may be yet another example of how Apple’s obsession with competing against Google is hurting Apple. Facebook Home is obviously a slap in Apple’s face, but it may be acceptable to Apple because it’s also a punch in Google’s mouth.

Will Apple keep driving users to Facebook so that Facebook can drive them to Android?

Time will tell.

I’m not suggesting that Apple should declare thermonuclear war on Facebook. But at least stop favoring them in the apps.

What would Steve do?

Deals of the Day

  • dcj001

    “People who have become enamored of Facebook now have a very good reason to switch from iPhone to Android in order to get Facebook Home.”

    Switching from iPhone to Android in order to get Facebook Home makes no sense to me. But, then again, some people do things that just make no sense.

  • boblevel

    I keep hoping that Facebook will wither and die like Myspace. Maybe once people start getting tons of ads on their phone’s homescreen they will finally ditch it like my family and I have.

  • Lordthree

    Nobody wants Facebook home. It’s DOA. Just read the comment sections of any site and you’ll find everyone laughing about the ‘ads are content’ remark and how the normal app is good enough.

    Facebook home is dead. Facebook is dying. If you’ve STILL got a Facebook page, you’re failing.

  • stefn

    As usual, Elgin misses the point. Apple’s phone market sector is at the upper end, not $100 phones. Low end phones are Google’s patch. Almost nobody is going to switch from an iPhone to a cheap plastic phone plus a Facebook app. OTOH Google immediately loses a chunk of search and services on its own Android OS. Now that’s a slap in the face. And Facebook is just getting started; it will fork or flee Android, just like Amazon, and with even more reason.

  • gnomehole

    Honestly I’m a huge Facebook user and would not install this on my phone. My young nieces and nephews won’t even install this. Its a nice looking interface but honestly I bet 90% of installs are uninstalled within the first month and the rest once ads start jumping onto the screen.

    Apple, DO NOT worry about this. Stay the course, its why I buy your products. No need to be a sellout to a social media disaster.

  • johnny9167

    I couldn’t be happier that the iOS interface is clean of this FB Trojan Horse! FB used to be fun when it first came out. Now it’s an ad driven public company where everyone posts political rants, pictures of dinner, newborns, quotes from famous people in status messages, etc. The less of FB, the better! This article can viewed as Apple screwing FB over by just saying no! Thank you Apple!

  • hic9582

    “It will eventually come pre-installed on a bunch of Android phones. Over time, it may function on the majority of global Android handsets counted in the hundreds of millions.”

    Hahaha. Humorous article. Anyways, when HTC sells a grand total of 7 of these stupid phones the experiment will come to an end and we can all move on.

  • Jdsonice

    What a freaking waste of time.

  • Paullloydjohnson

    Dear Mike Elgan,

    YOU CLEARLY HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT HOW APPLE OPERATE. YOU SEEM TO HATE EVERYTHING THEY DO.

    We don’t care about your stupid opinions.
    Please stop posting utter nonsense.

    Dear Cult of Mac,

    Can we please have a button to hide Mike Elgan’s posts?

    Thanks!

  • wytchkraft_corp

    I regret having spent time with this post…clearly a lack of Apple-wisdom here

  • TheMacGuy

    1st things first, Steve said to NEVER ask “What would Steve do?” EVER. So just putting that in this article p*sses me off.

    2nd. Facebook SUCKS! Plain and simple. To much crap on there, unusable. I prefer Twitter (and even that is starting to get out of hand.

    3rd. (I didn’t relise this until I looked at the other comments) Mike Elgan wrote this article. If I would of seen that I would have just skipped this article. And now because of his comments, I need to reply.

  • Todd_Newstrom

    Facebook Blows, period. Nuff said

  • ConstableOdo

    I’d heard that this Android Facebook crApp won’t even run on 50% of Android devices. All I know is Apple is running the company how it sees fit and isn’t letting Facebook run roughshod on its iOS platform. Android is used any way someone wants it to and that’s good for Google. I hope the whole Android platform becomes completely fragmented and forked and ends up as THE mobile platform for poor third-world nations. We’ll see how much revenue Google can get out of that mess.

  • leetut

    still cant comment here using the pulse app on iphone???
    times up for fixing that, cult of mac is now removed from my pulse feed!!!!!!!
    you fucking arseholes…

  • leetut

    and in my 40 years of existence i still havent met an android user!!!

  • easydone101

    Ah….there’s that old classic question…….what would Steve do

  • khodson98

    Also you said it will be pre installed on many phones…. There’s only one dude.

  • khodson98

    This article is so stupid. None of this even matters to iPhone or just about everyone who uses facebook.

  • Sundeep Chugani

    I think it’s more aimed at teens who think they have the worst life in the world and need to tell their friends about it over Facebook. While I think it’s a good strategic move on Facebook’s end to capture more of the younger teen market that can afford cheaper android headsets and will get the added “bonus” of Facebook home, I don’t think anyone at Apple can get upset. To me it just seems like business as usual. Everyone’s looking out for themselves as things go up and down, companies agree and disagree…just my 2cents which I felt the need to share

  • technochick

    Steve would laugh his ass off at your continued inane drivel.

  • dcj001

    Also you said it will be pre installed on many phones…. There’s only one dude.

    “It will eventually come pre-installed on a bunch of Android phones.”

  • That_Dan_Person

    I predict that with in the next 6 months the only Android users that will be using FB home will be hipsters, teens and early to mid twenty tragic types. Apple has nothing to fear.

  • monstermasten

    I predict that with in the next 6 months the only Android users that will be using FB home will be hipsters, teens and early to mid twenty tragic types. Apple has nothing to fear.

    A phone dominated by Facebook is the last thing a hipster would want lol. Instagram and Twitter, not Facebook.

  • Jackson Myers

    I use Facebook but I don’t get why anybody would want Facebook taking over your home screen? Why not just use a Facebook app when you want to check Facebook?

  • chrisrenaldi

    This article is so stupid.

  • j_blatto

    Sometimes Mike Elgan’s articles annoy me. Other times, like this one, I want to buy the guy a beer for his insight.

  • Henrydmc

    As much as I like Facebook, I want it to stay a social media app like twitter and Instagram are. I don’t want to eventually have to do everything through Facebook. I want my own saying in where I want my pictures being posted, and who I tell where I am at, and what I am eating. Facebook to me will always be just a social media, and I don’t want it being anything else other than just that.

  • rockarollr

    Mike Elgan asks, “What would Steve do?”

    I’ll tell you what he would do. He would, first, fly into a rage about how Facebook just stabbed Apple in the back after Apple promoted Facebook usage by integrating it into OS X and iOS. God help the ears of the people that happened to be around him when he found out. Then, wasting NO time, he would be on the phone to Zuckerberg to bend his ear and ask him point blank, “WTF do you think you’re doing?!”. When he didn’t get a satisfactory answer, he’d hang up, stew over the whole scenario for a bit, then march straight down to Craig Federighi and say, “I want Facebook integration taken out of OS X and iOS… PRONTO!” Much pacing of the floor would occur, followed 30 seconds later by Steve asking, “Are you done yet?!”

    At his next keynote address, Steve would then put up a slide showing numbers on how Facebook usage is slipping and give that as a reason for the de-integration. “We at Apple always look forward, never backward, and that is evident in all of our product revisions to date. We’re constantly evaluating and refining everything in order to bring the best experience possible to our customers. Waning interest in Facebook has shown us that integrating a dying social platform into our products is not the best path going forward. In light of this fact, Facebook will no longer be an integral part of our operating systems starting with iOS 7 and OS X 10.9” — A big Steve grin —

    BOOM!

    Zuckerberg is a huge douche anyway. Steve would find a way to steamroll his a**. You can bet on that!

  • rogifan

    Who wants FB overtaking their phone? I’m sure the ones that do don’t own an iPhone in the first place.

  • geoadm

    I’m interested to see how popular this becomes on android over the next 6-12 months. This may have been a good idea a few years ago however Facebook has turned into an overmarketed spamfest. 90% of my “newsfeed” is just “person x liked a fake offer for something free”
    This sort of crap along with ads is not what most people want their phone covered with.

  • Wirehedd

    Stopped using FB over a year ago and haven’t missed it an iota. Sick of in your face promos of garbage and cheapskate offers on junk nobody wants. Utter waste of time and bandwidth IMO. Mind you, I do use G+ which is a tad boring but at least I see what I want and the ad blockers work properly.

  • baby_Twitty

    I STOPPED reading at “How low will Apple go?”

  • minimalist1969

    I think Elgin is right. There are tons of people who would love Facebook to be front and center on their phone. The one’s who brag about how they are so over Facebook or who openly show disdain for it as a silly diversion that only silly people would use are a geeky minority who happen to be overly represented on the web. If you listened to the the digerati and comments on tech sites you might get the impression that Facebook was in serious trouble… which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Facebook Home is a brilliant play on Facebook’s part and its going to be interesting to see how Google and Apple respond to it. Apple has the upper hand in my opinion because they can just counter with some great new features that make the iPhone more attractive than a Facebook Home phone. But Google is the one who has been really screwed by this. Their “open is best” strategy is being used against them. And the irony is that they basically just gave Facebook the ability to bypass their services and apps for free.

  • shutterbugg

    I don’t feel like Apple has a need to be threatened by Facebook. Facebook has been integrated into iOS but it is not front and center which is the way I like it. I’m sure most iOS users agree with me. I doubt the majority of Android users want Facebook dominating their phone.

  • shutterbugg

    I don’t feel like Apple has a need to be threatened by Facebook. Facebook has been integrated into iOS but it is not front and center which is the way I like it. I’m sure most iOS users agree with me. I doubt the majority of Android users want Facebook dominating their phone.

  • geekinfossite

    Hey,
    Don’t not install Facebook Home. It don’t only screw Apple, it will kill your independence, your freedom and your private content.
    Did you know that Facebook sell your informations to our governments? Did you know that it exists a lot of interesting alternative to this social networks?
    Here is a list of 8 Upcoming Social Networks that can remplace Facebook: http://www.technologeek.net/8-upcoming-social-networks-you-cant-miss/.
    Best regards, Brunner Nathan

  • sefid

    ok, I m all into Apple but in the recent years, UI on iOS hasnt catched up with the current needs of costumers… such as , I dont want to -first- open an app, then tab the related area to make a search on web, and also I dont want to -first- open an pp, -wait till it gets download for emails..etc, I want to make these things faster and instantly..i mean it.. Apple needs to pace it up…

  • WXMAN2001

    I stopped reading after “How Facebook”

  • kriswm

    i seriously doubt facebook home is interesting enough to cause a substantial amount of people to switch from apple to android. it’s one app verses the thousands of apps and tight ecosystems that exists underneath apple. besides, facebook has been getting boring lately.

  • Robert X

    Doesn’t screw Apple at all. I have an app for Facebook. That is all they get. If anything it screws Google.

  • Steven Quan

    Am I the only person who remembers Mark Zuckerberg just 6 months ago (Sept 2012) saying that Facebook isn’t going to do a phone because it didn’t align with their goals? Either Zuck flat out lied to us all along, or they did a complete about face, engineered a UI on top of Android, contracted with HTC, and had phones manufactured, all in less than 6 months time.

  • Steven Quan

    Hey,
    Don’t not install Facebook Home. It don’t only screw Apple, it will kill your independence, your freedom and your private content.
    Did you know that Facebook sell your informations to our governments? Did you know that it exists a lot of interesting alternative to this social networks?
    Here is a list of 8 Upcoming Social Networks that can remplace Facebook: http://www.technologeek.net/8-upcoming-social-networks-you-cant-miss/.
    Best regards, Brunner Nathan

    Did you know that the second you get on the internet you have no privacy? Did you realize how ridiculous you sound when you talk about privacy on the internet? Do you realize every website is tracking your clicks and using the information for marketing purposes? They may not be as in-your-face about it as Google or Facebook, but they all do it.

  • Parvanit

    Simply keeping Facebook as what it should be, an app that a person uses when they want to engage socially, is plenty response.

    Real people don’t live and breathe Facebook 24/7.
    It’s like getting caught smoking when you’re a kid, the best cure is your parents making you smoke till you puke.

    Actually, considering how annoying Facebook becomes quickly, its more like broccoli and buttsex… If you’re forced to have them a lot as a child, you won’t enjoy them as an adult. Facebook — the new broccoli.

  • stefn

    Friends and grandkids … not to mention ads … on a front page and a billion users? Killer. It’s like buying the cover of TIME. Actually it’s more like stealing the cover of TIME from TIME Inc. Clever boots. Astonishingly Mike Elgin wonders why Apple isn’t smart enough to have Facebook Home happen. That’s critical reflection fallen to a new low.

    Like it or not Facebook got it right: software drives hardware sales. Always has. More so in mobile; software (tunes) fueled the iPod and software (apps), the iPhone and iPad. Google is all software all the time; it hasn’t figured out how to make a buck off hardware, Moto notwithstanding. (Cars and glasses are joke products at this point.)

    Regrardless what Z says today, it will drive Facebook to pull a Bezos and fork or flee Android and to do its own phone. Cus’ that’s where the real money is: Integration. Ask Apple. Ask Samsung. Eventually shareholders will ask why Facebook and Google leave the big money on the table.

  • thegraphicmac

    Apple would never allow this ‘app’ on an iPhone, so I fail to see how they’re being screwed. I suspect that a ton of people will download FB Home, use it for a day or two, and delete it when they realize it’s a gimmick that provides the same features they already have—only with ads on top of them.

  • ehunyadi

    Get rid of the Facebook integration just because of Facebook Home? Are you kidding me? So, lock me out of Facebook because I have an iPhone just because Facebook prefers Google? That would drive me back to Android. I need my Facebook integration to share with my (now grown) kids. Remove that, and remove one of the key components of why I like the iPhone and, in the process, lose me as a customer.

  • MrsCleaver

    It’s a silly story. Facebook is silly, Zuckerberg is silly and posing the question “Would would Steve do?” is the silliest part of all. For me it breaks down this way:

    1. If you don’t use Facebook—which many people don’t—who cares?

    2. If you use Facebook, you’re going to use it any way you can or wish to, on any device.

    3. Steve Jobs is gone. I wish it weren’t so, but he gone and that’s it. Tim Cook won’t do things like Steve would do, because he’s not Steve. But there’s no doubt Steve Jobs chose Tim Cook to run his company for good reasons, and he really should be given the credit for laying things out properly before he changed dimensions. When Facebook allows me to “friend” Steve Jobs and all the others I loved and miss, I’ll join in.

    Just my 2¢, which is worth even less than that.