Facebook launch to take on the might of Google

FACEBOOK’s move into mobile phones threatens to disrupt Google’s hold on the market, according to investment bankers.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the social networking site could now become the central feature on mobiles operated by Google-owned technology.

He said the product, called Home, will turn Android phones into “a great social phone” and creates “the best version of Facebook there is”.

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Victor Basta, managing director of Magister Advisors, said: “Facebook’s move is a classic case of ‘out-googling’ Google.

“By going over the top of Google’s prized Android operating system, Facebook is doing to Google exactly what Google did to the internet, sitting on top of a chaotic system, making it simple and uniform through a proprietary layer, and underpinning this with deep search functionality.”

The investment banker, who advises technology companies on mergers and acquisitions, said Home presents a clear strategic threat to Google by potentially reducing the value of its investment in Android.

“Google has zero say in this, since unlike Apple, they do not control what happens within the Android eco-system,” he added.

Mr Basta said Facebook, Google and Apple are locked in a three-way fight for the same sources of value.

Kristal Ireland, a Yorkshire-based digital marketing expert, offered a more sceptical view on the likely impact of the free product, which launches on April 12, and questioned whether it would offer any significant threat to Google or Apple in the mobile market.

She said: “Like many people I want to choose when I dive into the social media world – not have it pushed upon me by phone notifications and home screen updates.

“Personally, I have all Facebook notifications turned off quite simply because rarely do I see anything now on Facebook that I truly care about or find necessary to act with any immediacy upon.”

Ms Ireland, who is strategy director at Enjoy Digital in Leeds, is carrying out detailed market research into social media usage by 16-20 year-olds.

She said: “While many of the research group admit to using Facebook regularly there is also a significant sentiment there that they are shifting away from the platform and seeking alternatives like Tumblr and Twitter for their social media fix.

“I would reflect many of their comments around the endless advertising by the platform infiltrating my social sphere in favour of switching to more user centric, not ad centric platforms.”

Speaking at the launch event at the company’s headquarters in California, Mr Zuckerberg said: “The homescreen is really the soul of your phone. You look at it about a hundred times a day.

“It sets the tone for your whole experience and we think it should be deeply personal.”

The 28-year-old computer programmer added: “At one level, this is just the next mobile version of Facebook but at a deeper level, I think that this can start to be a change in the relationship that we have with how we use these computing devices.

“For more than 30 years computers have mostly just been about tasks and they had to be... but the modern computing device has a very different place in our lives. It’s not just for productivity and business although it’s great for that too.

“It’s also for making us more connected, more social, more aware.”

Twitter: @bernardginns