5. April 2013–
As you might be aware, Facebook has just announced Home, its new mobile offering, designed specifically for Android OS. And in a special press event and global live stream held yesterday in Menlo Park, Facebook showed that it has clearly been reading "Apple's Big Book on How to Manipulate the Press".
“Instead of our phones being designed around apps … we can flip that around and design our phones around people first,” said
Jobs Zuckerberg. OK, we get it – instead of having to click into the currently crappy Facebook mobile experience, you'll be able to see your friend's inspirational quote or those pictures of baby owls straight on your homepage.
But wait – is that Grumpy Cat making a Hitchcock-style cameo in the Facebook Home video?? Read on to uncover this and other Facebook Home mysteries...
• It isn't an OS...
Apparently. It goes “a whole lot deeper than an ordinary app" says Zuck. It’s essentially a family of Facebook services that will sacrifice your handset up to the Facebook Gods. So your homepage becomes a full-screen Facebook feed, with notifications appearing as overlays, allowing you to comment straight from this screen.
• It could be bad news for Android developers...
Facebook Home is "layer-based", which essentially means that it sweeps all your other apps under its homepage rug. They're still available, but Facebook sits atop – so your homescreen widgets and any other distractions are replaced with Facebook services. Zuckerberg has also promised regular monthly updates to Home — so expect more Facebook-sanctioned offerings that will take precedence over your Android apps. This could spell bad news for any Android devs who want to get their app noticed, especially in the field of messaging – which is obviously what Facebook is going after...
• ... but great news for advertisers. And Facebook revenue
Zuck admitted that although “There are no ads in this yet. I’m sure that one day there will be". According to VentureBeat, Facebook is set to take 30 per cent of mobile ad revenue in the US this year, so Home will obviously be a future target for this.
The Cover Feed layer represents a massive piece of mobile real estate, so don't be surprised if you see contextual ads popping up there before long.
• It's a redemption of sorts...
After spectacularly messing up its mobile offering in the past, with Zuckerberg admitting that one of his biggest regrets was "betting completely on HTML 5", and Facebook wasting two years building its non-native mobile app – a move that was reflected in the troubled IPO. The biggest complaint of Facebook users has been the unsatisfactory mobile offering – Home points to a shiny, new future for Facebook mobile usage (and the Facebook share price has already initially jumped by three per cent today).
Now all it needs to do is sort out search.
• Messaging will be super-annoying, but compulsive
It already has one of the lamest names in tech this year, and the Chat Heads service itself promises to be just as annoying. It is a Facebook "layer" that allows you to send texts and Facebook messages at the same time, so you don't have to leave one app and boot up another to continue conversations with your friends... ie you don't have to leave Facebook to text.
Being a layer means that it also pops up no matter what app you're in. Be it YouTube or Instagram or Runkeeper, when a friend messages you it will sit there persistently until you deal with it, adding to First-World Stress Syndrome.
• It is available on these Android devices...
If you have one of the fancier Android handsets, then you will be able to get Facebook Home on 12 April. The Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S IV, and Galaxy Note II are all compatible, as is the HTC’s One X+ and upcoming One.
Users simply need to go to Google Play and install it like any other app. Zuckerberg also pointed to further industry integration, mentioning other big-hitters such as Qualcomm, Huawei, Lenovo and Sony and introducing the “Facebook Home Programme” that helps manufacturers easily implement FH.
• ...and a completely new Android handset
The first branded “Facebook phone” has also been announced – and it's called, rather unimaginatively, the HTC First. While the high-end handsets above will be able to handle Home, First offers up a mid-range option that will see Facebook Home take the centre stage, running it straight out the box. There'll also be an Android app launcher, should you need to bother yourself with any other apps.
• iPhone *will* join the party
Although Zuckerberg has admitted that for Facebook Home to appear on the iPhone it would need a whole other level of co-operation and integration, this is essentially an invitation for Apple to do so.
The whole Android deal is a massive throwing down of the gauntlet by Zuckerberg, as is his none-too-subtle statements: “Apple is a very controlled ecosystem... “It would have to be a complete 180. "Fundamentally, Android is just a more open system." Your move, Apple...
• But wait... is that Grumpy Cat in the video??
The Facebook Home video is as gut-wrenchingly soft-focus and touchy-feely as you'd imagine. But in between the shots of people gazing longingly at their handsets, holding hands and "connecting", IS THAT GRUMPY CAT?? There's no confirmation from official sources as yet, but those markings look pretty familiar.
Annoyingly there's no full frontal shot to confirm or deny the speculation, but judge for yourself in the video below...