Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) unveiled Facebook Home on Thursday, an innovative new take on the power of Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system. With Facebook Home, the social network is pushing the definition of a mobile app to the next level.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s radical move has prompted a lot of speculation among investors: will Google have to change Android? Will people give up their Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone? Right now, there are still a lot of unknowns, but the mobile computing world may never be the same again.
Facebook is a clear winner
Other than the opportunity cost of using resources on developing Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Home, the company was a clear winner. At worst, consumers will pass on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Home and the company will decide to abandon the project. At best, Android users will embrace it enthusiastically and use Facebook to a degree never before seen.
It’s possible consumers will decide they simply don’t want their lock screen to show pictures from their Facebook. In that case, the response will be tepid, and the resources spent developing the app will have been wasted.
But the upside is worth the risk. If a significant percentage of Android users decide to install Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) Home (or even better, purchase the HTC First) then the social network should see these consumers use Facebook like never before. That’s good for Facebook, which should be able to better monetize these more dialed-in members.
In the most wildly optimistic of scenarios, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) could further exploit Android, perhaps inserting its own app store or strengthening graph search on mobile.
The ball is in Google’s court
Officially, Google is saying it welcomes Facebook Home. The search giant told TechCrunch it “demonstrates the openness and flexibility that has made Android so popular.”
That’s true; Android’s openness has made it popular — so popular it’s the dominant mobile operating system. But what good does it do Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) to waste billions developing Android when the company is deriving no benefit from it?
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s strategy with Android has been to give it away for free as sort of a trojan horse. Get an Android phone, and next thing you know you’ll be addicted to Google’s web services — gmail, Google Drive, perhaps even Goolge+.
But if Android users aren’t using Google’s web services, the company isn’t gaining anything. With Facebook Home, Google’s services are pushed aside like never before. They’re still there, but buried behind Facebook.
Most dangerous is the possibility that others could follow. I wrote that it would make the most sense for Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) to copy Facebook Home, but it isn’t just Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) — it could become a full-fledged trend.