The reactions to Facebook's new mobile experience called Home have been mixed. Personally, this was the least exciting announcement in a very long time. There is no positive for any ecosystem here, let alone the user. Some headlines from my colleagues at ZDNet:
Facebook unveiled the Home app designed to let the social network take over your Android home screen. A few years ago the failed Motoblur tried to do the same thing.
-- James Kendrick
As a Facebook hater, you might find it unsurprising that I also hate 'Home' but it goes deeper than a hate for Facebook alone. It goes all the way back to AOL of the mid-90s.
-- Ken Hess
(Even as a regular Facebook user, i find Facebook Home to be an intolerable waste of time.)
You think Google's Android OS is hopelessly fragmented now? This is just the beginning.
-- Jason Perlow
And then there are the privacy concerns, as pointed out by Rachel King. I haven't found any reason to use Home as my default boot option (if that's what it can be called). My Facebook feed is filled with pictures of quotes that are tagged with several people I don't know. (I think I need better friends.) Having these pictures circle on my lock screen will be frustrating enough for me to either:
- Quit Facebook
- Disable Facebook Home
My rants aside, when I think about the Indian consumer, I believe Facebook's idea to make any Android phone into a Facebook phone might drive a new range of devices and marketing blitz from the Indian OEMs and operators. both parts of the mobile ecosystem have in the past made attempts to woo the Indian consumer with special offers for Facebook use. Here are some examples:
- Tata Docomo lets users check-in on Facebook without a data connection
- Vodafone introduced a Facebook feature phone for $100
- HTC had attempted a Facebook phone a few years ago with the HTC ChaCha
- INQ launched a phone aimed at Facebook users
Point being, companies in India have seen a market in a "Facebook phone" for a few years, and Facebook Home will act as a solid platform to offer these services. Somini Sengupta writing for the New York Times talked about Brazil and India's huge Facebook userbase as a potential market. While she might be right that Facebook doesn't have a monetary advantage in doing a big splash launch in India, the operators & phone manufacturers would be more than willing to leverage Facebook Home as a marketing gimmick to sell.
Forbes' Parmy Olson is pessimistic about Facebook Home gaining any traction in India despite pointing out the following:
- India is a second largest Android market
- India's mobile handset market saw a growth of 75% in the second half of 2012
- India has the third largest Facebook userbase
She points out apps like Nimbuzz and WhatsApp will be a roadblock for Facebook Home, that's something very hard to digest or even consider. Messaging apps have affected carriers but that affecting Facebook Home's adoption given that carriers will do anything to sell services, that's a very uneducated prediction.
India is a good market for Facebook Home, not necessarily Facebook the company.