Facebook Phone Might Be Better Served Soft
Independent analyst Rob Enderle found the move to be a bit of a Catch-22 that the advantage of taking the application route, which it currently does with mobile apps for the iPhone and Android operating system, is that the company ends up where people are. And that's Facebook's raison d 'etre. However, this is also means they are subject to the whims of the platforms of their competitors."The difficulty is clearly that this is not a business Facebook knows and the strength of this will be in their partners. But who would have believed that either Google or Apple would be successful here a few years ago?" Enderle, who said he would have to see the device to decide whether this is a good move, raises a fair point. While RIM, Apple and Google have emerged as something of a three-horse race for mobile platforms in the United States, this market is still young and fluctuating. Just a year ago, the Android market share was barely worth mentioning and now it has set its sights on Apple's iPhone share. Perhaps what might be more useful for Facebook and its 500 million users in the near term is the addition of VOIP (Voice over IP) capabilities to the Facebook.com Website and mobile app itself. Just as Facebook enables users to chat live with friends, Facebook could perhaps add calling and video capabilities, similar to Google Chat, Google Talk, Call Phones from Gmail and Skype's multi-layered PC-to-PC and PC-to-mobile calling services. Facebook might even try its own version of a phone management application, akin to Google Voice. This is the sort of functionality that Facebook users would embrace. If the majority of users are socializing with family friends and colleagues through Facebook, the next logical step is to increase the communications capabilities from simple text messaging to voice and video contact. That would satisfy users and keep them from going to Google for Web services Facebook doesn't currently provide, such as Google Voice or Call Phones from Gmail. Thus, a Facebook "soft phone" would be every bit as valuable as a branded Facebook phone.
"By doing your own phone (with partners like HTC and Microsoft) you don't strengthen your competitors and you can focus on the things you think a customer of yours might like and avoid increasing your competitors' strength over them by your own actions," Enderle reasoned.