Android got another smash to the piñata that is its cohesiveness as a mobile platform administered to it by Facebook this past week. Mark Zuckerberg introduced the HTC First and its Facebook Home overlay of HTC’s Sense…errr…overlay as a way of getting users to turn to Facebook instead of Google to spend all their time. The phone will be cheap – $100 with 2 year contract – and its specs won’t move blood to any freetard naughty bits, but that’s obviously not who the target market for this device is. Facebook currently has twice as many mobile users as the United States has people. Some fraction of those 680+ million are going to be interested enough to buy a phone based on Facebook being the predominant input. Even more are going to download and use it: Facebook announced that Home will be available as a stand-alone app on the Google Play store.
As many people point out, Facebook Home isn’t an outright fork of Android in the spirit of Amazon’s Kindle HD devices. Siegler says Facebook is “spooning” Android, but that’s a snappy play on words that belies the truth of what this move actually is: a blatant attention grab away from Google’s own services. And let’s be clear: attention is a zero sum game. It may not have the same devastating effect on these services as an official fork, but judging by the hands-on I’ve seen and reviews I’ve read, it’s much more obtrusive than a skin and a serious problem for Google. The reason is that the same demographic where Google is realizing success with Android is the same low-to-middle end device market that’s going to be interested in Facebook Home. The HTC First (and other devices with Home pre-installed that will be announced later this year) won’t be a factor for people looking at an S4 vs. an iPhone 5, but it will be for people deciding between Android models like the Droid RAZR HD and Spectrum 2. Then there’s all the rest of the people who will download Home to their mobile devices.
So what the fuck is Google thinking by allowing this? It’s a good question. I think the answer is two-fold. First of all, Google already allowed Amazon – and currently allows OEMs – to manipulate Android in ways I imagine you’d have to date a gymnast to fully understand. For them to draw the line with Facebook – especially Facebook backed by an existing Android OEM – would put them in a weird spot. Secondly, Android, as we know, is a virus that needs a legion of carriers: more carriers = more money. 30% mobile engagement of Google services with a Facebook overlay (of an HTC overlay) is better than the 0% engagement Google would be sucking if Facebook were to engage Windows Mobile as a partner instead.
Samsung and Facebook are just the most recent examples of an unsettling phenomenon for Google: Android is becoming bastardized to the point of total brand dissolution, with fewer and fewer people showing an interest in digging through the OEM cruft to get to the things that make Google its money. Now Google has to contend with Facebook stealing their customers’ attention while riding Android right up Avenue B. Must really suck for some parasite to be siphoning coin off the work you put into a mobile OS, huh?
Karma’s a bitch.