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With yesterday’s announcement of a Facebook hosted event to be held on April 4th with the message “come see our new home on Android”, the blogosphere went wild with every theory imaginable with what that could mean. The most obvious conclusion however was that we would finally get a look at the often rumored but never seen smartphone collaboration between HTC and “The Book” which would run some kind of forked version of Google’s operating system. Well according to the Wall Street Journal, that estimation was pretty much correct.
Facebook is indeed working on software for devices that run Android and the first device running this software will in fact be made by HTC, but it remains to be seen whether it’s more of a launcher replacement / skin or an actual forked version of Android like Amazon has with the Kindle line of tablets. What we know for sure is that this software will display content from a users Facebook account on the phone’s home screen, while other Facebook designed apps like Facebook chat and Facebook camera will be more heavily integrated into the design of the OS as a whole.
This move is an expected one because not only have we been hearing about a mythical Facebook phone for a couple of years now, the social network is trying to gain more revenue from mobile ads. Given that there are 650 million Facebook mobile users, then making their own dedicated semi-ecosystem would only seem logical.
Additionally the partnership with HTC could potentially be a match made in heaven. The manufacturer, who is hoping to gain back some of their lost market share with this year’s flagship the HTC One, could do a lot worse than teaming up with a social network that already has such a large user base. Not only that but the One also has a new feature called Blinkfeed which would almost be a pre-curser to the Facebook software as it gives the user content from Facebook, Twitter, etc. directly on their home screen.
While there are apparently plans to see this software running on other devices at some point hinting at this being a skin, the integration of the other Facebook apps also point to this being a forked version of the OS. To most people this is a distinction without a difference but to others it will be a very noticeable and possibly frustrating deal breaker. Anyone who runs a stock Kindle Fire will tell you about how bad the Amazon app store is or how the lack of Google Maps is enough to caution people against buying the tablet. In the end it all comes down to personal preference and Facebook seems to be betting that enough people are so locked into their services that they either don’t have to or don’t want to look elsewhere.
We’ll know in a few days exactly what this gamble is and if it will pay off.