Have you ever had one of those moments when you think, “Wait a second, that was MY idea”? Well after watching the YouTube video of Facebook’s Home, I had that exact thought. Back in October I had started an article called “Rethinking the iPhone” but didn't finish and publish it until late last month. If you read my article and then watch the YouTube video you'll think what I did, “that was MY idea.” However, as I was watching the Home presentation, by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, I realized something new — Facebook’s Home is much more of a threat to Google's Android OS than it is to Apple’s iOS.
When the iOS SDK was introduced in 2008, developers went wild writing for Apple’s new mobile platform. At the same time Adobe decided to try something clever. Adobe wanted to deploy a Flash based SDK (software developer’s kit) for iOS. The idea was to have developers us Adobe Air to write for Flash instead of iOS. By writing for Flash developers could write once and deploy everywhere on everything — programmers nirvana. This is what the Java Virtual Machine tried to accomplish around 1998, but ultimately failed due to performance, acceptance and compatibility problems. Steve Jobs’ response to Adobe Flash for iOS was to deny Flash access to the entire iOS platform. As you may recall in his open letter to Adobe, Jobs had several reasons for not allowing Adobe to deploy Flash on iOS, but it was the sixth reason (and most important one) many people forget:
Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.
We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.
Now fast-forward to yesterday. What is Facebook doing to the Android platform? Exactly what Adobe tried to do to iOS in 2008. The problem is Google can't stop Facebook from deploying Home because Android is open-source, which already a huge problem for the Android platform. J.M. Manness of Seeking Alpha has written an excellent eight-part series on the mobile OS battle. In Part 8 he writes,
I do believe that the Smartphone OS landscape will be very different in 4 years -- and that Android OS, by Google (GOOG), will be the loser.
To summarize, Manness believes that Android will continue to splinter and fracture. While on whole Google will claim big installation numbers, the longer Google allows each manufacturer to “customize” Android, the further apart one Android phone gets from another. Now enter Facebook's Home “third party layer” and you virtually have a new OS springing up and hijacking Android. One might think this is good for Google, as someone is making Android better and more useable. However, that begs the question, how does Google get a return on investment from Android? The answer is pretty simple, from search, where Google is the default search engine on Android. The next question is which search engine does Facebook use? Answer: not Google's. Making matters worse for Google, Facebook phone will not integrate Google's social networking tool Google +.
So when I step back and take a look at what Facebook announced yesterday, the conclusion I draw is it's Google, not Apple, that is in real trouble. A pirate named Zuckerberg has come along side the USS Android and is hijacking it. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss may soon have some new members (Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin and Larry Page) join their “We were screwed by Mark Zuckerberg” club.
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