What The Facebook-HTC Deal Reveals About Zuckerberg’s Mobile Strategy

Want proof that there is a new OS battle looming? This update to our ongoing coverage of the Death Of The File System takes a closer look at Facebook Home, and how it positions the big blue social network to become a leading player in tomorrow’s smartphone wars.

What The Facebook-HTC Deal Reveals About Zuckerberg’s Mobile Strategy

Don’t like the UI on your HTC Android device? Rebuild it. HTC has open-sourced the code to their front-end experience, HTC Sense, for dozens of devices and geographies. As discussed earlier in this story, UI preference leads to user lock-in, especially when your files and apps are in the cloud. With this in mind, HTC’s decision could prove a brilliant strategical move, but it could also turn into a massive user backlash.


Will technically savvy users lock themselves to HTC by willingly customizing their devices? Is it wise for HTC to assume that its users will “fix it if they want it fixed,” or have they simply watered down our design choices? A UI open to such wholesale restructuring may simply seem incomplete. It’s like a tacit admission that many use-cases have been left unsolved (or hell, even unconsidered). Is this HTC being refreshingly honest, or abysmally lazy? Via 9to5Google.

Need some context around this topic? Read the larger discussion that spawned this article: “The Death Of The File System: What You Need To Know

The same question applies to HTC’s deal with Facebook. Facebook gets a ton of advantages out of the Home deal, but whether HTC gets as much in return isn’t clear. Via AppleOutsider:

Time. Home significantly increases Facebook’s mobile presence without being everything. A lot of time and care seems to have gone into it, but it’s surely far less than a full-blown operating system would require. Installed base. Built in. The sales pitch is very simple: If you have a device that Home supports, download it. No money, no switcher headaches. Blackberry and Windows Phone sales prove that people aren’t looking for new platforms right now. Software Experience. Facebook’s engineers have surely learned a lot from this project. That experience will be reapplied not only to expanding Home itself, but to building a full-blown OS if they want. Hardware Experience. While the software is the real news here, Facebook took the initiative to also start working with a handset maker. The HTC First is hardly a “Facebook phone”, but it’s a chance for Facebook to experience the complexity of coordinating hardware, software, and carrier partnerships from a distance. Remember the Motorola ROKR? Remember what happened fifteen months later? HTC was the obvious choice. Samsung and Android have ruined [HTC] and they’re desperate to stay relevant. Facebook likely got everything they asked for.

This is the crux of the argument, which also highlights how unbalanced the Facebook/HTC deal must really be:

Facebook has loudly and confidently entered an arena it has no prior experience in, and has set a clear path to expand its influence at its own pace. Facebook Home will provide a halo effect to current Android users that warms them up to a full-blown “Facebook phone” in the years to come. It gives Facebook the experience, confidence, credibility, momentum, and time to build a better and broader mobile experience than they would have been able to build otherwise. It’s as prudent as it is ambitious.

Look for more updates on this conversation in our evolving coverage of The Death Of The File System

[Smartphone Image: Kostenko Maxim via Shutterstock]

About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.