Despite it taking 10 years for Marty Cooper’s first mobile telephone to become commercially available, the pace of change has been relentless since the Motorola engineer’s successful test in 1973. Last year 1.75 billion mobile phones were sold around the world, down from 2011.
It’s a fierce market, worth $1.2 trillion, so if anyone can join the party at this stage, it would have to be Facebook and its one billion users. Arguably it’s no longer a ‘telephone’ industry. Neither Cooper, nor Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the first electric telephone, would recognise an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy SIII – at least not until they saw it in action.
Regardless, some are expecting Zuckerberg to not merely announce a new device, but showcase software that has functionality across a range of mobile phones.
Why should Facebook do anything at all?
Commercial tech adviser Ovum’s principal device analyst, Adam Leach, issued a statement ahead of Facebook’s announcement, offering a perspective on how he believes Zuckerberg’s juggernaut should move forward.
“There has been much speculation about what this will be, ranging from introducing a more deeply integrated Facebook app for Android all the way to launching its own “Facebook” phone. But why is Facebook doing anything at all?” he asks.
“The company wants to increase its engagement with its users and in particular its users accessing the service over mobile. To achieve this Facebook needs a mechanism to deliver its own services to a portfolio of devices. If this can be achieved with an Android Facebook skin or a co-branded phone then this will be better for Facebook as it avoids upsetting its current phone and platform partners and removes the immediate need to launch its own branded devices.”
Leach has a point. A new Facebook home screen would turn the social network’s Android app into a core smartphone component. Facebook services would be prioritised – such as messenger and possibly new camera features. Although it would be surprising to see Google step aside, considering they are still trying to stoke the fire for their Google+ social network.
“Facebook currently relies on the good will of its partners to carry the Facebook service. If it intends to move further into delivering digital services and go head to head with its consumer tech rivals such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon,” adds Leach.
“This will bring Facebook into conflict with its current partners and will require the company to have more control over the platform and the devices it delivers the experience to.”