Facebook Needs A Phone To Fight Google

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Why should Facebook make a phone? Simply because otherwise Google and Apple get the mobile dollars, says Clint Boulton

Jean-Louis Gassée has penned a cogent analysis answering many industry watchers’ question of: Why should Facebook produce a smartphone?

Facebook is a social network company that has been intensely focused on improving the tools that keep the social connections humming. Well, mobile is a necessary adjacent portal. Some would say it’s going to replace the desktop as the vehicle for Web interactions. For many users, it already has.

Social needs mobile?

Some 350 million or more of Facebook’s 800 million-plus users use Facebook for Android, iPhone or some other mobile app (or even just Facebook’s mobile Website to access the platform and connect with friends, family and colleagues.

Since Facebook relies on advertising to make money, you could then simply point to Google, the dominant online desktop and mobile Web ad provider in the world, as the reason Facebook needs to command the smartphone experience.

If Facebook has a smartphone, it can control the ads and apps it serves and so forth, possibly helping to strengthen the connections users have between not only other users, but merchants and others dabbling in mobile commerce. Gassée noted:

Both Google and Zuckerberg’s company vie for the same advertising dollars. This makes Google Facebook’s biggest, most direct competitor. The Trojan Horse applications on Android-powered smartphones are a direct threat to Facebook’s advertising business. Just like Google, Facebook wants to maximize our exposure to ads that are finely-tuned using the personal data we provide as a payment for the service. For this, the company needs a well-controlled smartphone.

Imagine walking down the street and getting pitched stuff left and right from merchants who recognise shoppers who have purchased goods from stores by logging in with their Facebook credentials.

Imagine recommendations shuttled over Facebook via the smartphone.The smartphone is simply another node for commerce and social connections. Facebook for iPhone and Android are nice, but they’re not making Facebook money. Apple and Google are.

Google knows this well, and so does Facebook, as Gassée noted:

On the one hand, an Android-powered smartphone — a Samsung Galaxy device, perhaps — with one good Facebook application and all the Google applications, the “evil” Google+ insinuating itself everywhere. On the other, a Facebook smartphone, with the Facebook experience on top of everything, its own app store, a Facebook browser, and Facebook Cloud Services.

Then you’re going to see some interesting alignments between Google and Facebook. Imagine the marketing wars as Facebook seeks to leverage its social connection prowess and paint Android phones as coarse, impersonal means for communication.

That will bring some interesting results. There are plenty of Facebook fans who hate Google and vice versa, so you’ll see some side-taking not unlike what we see already between Apple’s iPhones and the Android OEMs.