Is Facebook Home More Than Just a Souped-Up App?

The day after Facebook’s big announcement about its new Home interface for Android phones, Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick fielded questions on Yahoo! Finance about the implications of Facebook’s latest play for the mobile market. Kirkpatrick described Home as a layer between Android and the user, the aim of which is “to put Facebook in front of you immediately when you turn on your phone.” Not only does Kirkpatrick think the interface is good strategy, he believes users will like the features. While Kirkpatrick conceded that the phone is essentially a souped-up app with lots of new alerts and features, he asserted, “It’s a souped-up app that does things people want, but it comes at a moment that changes the relationship you have with your phone.” An essential component of the app, said Kirkpatrick, is that it surfaces SMS and messaging as the top layer of the user experience, demonstrating Facebook’s insight into how people are communicating. Are users ready for this new level of interactivity on their mobile phones? Maybe not all American users, said Kirkpatrick, but Facebook is looking abroad to places like Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, and India, where Facebook is “growing like crazy.” People in these countries, Kirkpatrick believes, are ready for their first phone to be a Facebook phone, because “it gives them a communications fluidity that is infinitely different than anything they’ve ever had.”

While Facebook did not address mobile advertising in yesterday’s announcement, the question of how they will integrate ads into the new interface is top-of-mind. Kirkpatrick thinks that Facebook’s mobile ads will have improve to achieve gains, saying that its current ads are “too big” and “poorly positioned.” But, said Kirkpatrick, “they will figure it out I think, and they’ve now got this real estate if they can get people to use this product.” Asked if ads could discourage wide adoption, Kirkpatrick speculated that, considering the amount of time people spend on Facebook, a lot of people will want it “just for the sheer convenience … because this is what they’re using their phones for anyway.” If Facebook Home takes off, domestically or abroad, Apple may have to finally relent on its policy of keeping iOS a closed system. As Kirkpatrick mentioned in his interview yesterday on Bloomberg TV, Facebook’s next move could be to partner with Samsung to develop an entirely new operating system, with an app store to compete with Google’s and Apple’s. “Those developments,” he said, “are not out of the question.”

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