Last night, news broke that Facebook’s moving towards launching a Facebook Phone of its own. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Zuckerberg’s team is hiring up mobile players all over the US, but is any such Facebook Phone doomed from the start?
Word from the WSJ is that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been personally interviewing and questioning mobile experts to try and figure out the best way to get a mobile phone to market.
“Mark is worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms,” said an unnamed Facebook employee, who’s among several anonymous tipsters all apparently itching to reveal that a Facebook Phone is in the works.
“The company has already hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers,” the WSJ claims, suggesting that branching into the world of mobile phones is the obvious route to pleasing the company’s new investors. After all, there are 500+ million mobile Facebook users, and they’re currently not being served any ads at all.
Ok, so a Facebook Phone designed and made by Facebook is coming, but is that necessarily a recipe for success? Nope. The problem here is in the way that Facebook handles itself as a company.
The Hacker Way
Crucial to this is ‘The Hacker Way’ – a five-step manifesto written by Zuckerberg himself, to try and keep the company moving at the same pace it did when Facebook was in its infancy. One of these steps is simply to “move fast,” with a clear emphasis on “speed over planning.” And it’s that sort of attitude that’ll trip Facebook up in the mobile space.
In online software, people don’t mind the iterative changes coming thick and fast as long as the core services work. The same’s not the case in mobile. People expect a certain level of polish on every version of both hardware and software from day one.
Android’s getting better all the time, but disjointed nature of its updates have turned some away and frustrated the ones who stay. If Facebook applies The Hacker Way to its phone business, you can expect it to be even more of a fragmented mess than Google’s OS. And that’s especially if the hardware falls foul to the same kind of rush job that Zuckerberg’s “just keep shipping” approach will dictate.
If Facebook want to succeed in the mobile space it needs to spend a considerable amount of time getting every aspect right. Nay: Perfect. It’ll need to launch with a clear plan of where the OS and the hardware will develop and change over the course of its first 18 months and beyond, rather than just hit the ground running and hope for the best.
But then, that’s exactly what Zuckerberg and team are used to doing: running without looking up. As long as Facebook doesn’t crash completely, everything’s ok, right? Well, have you seen the average review scores for the company’s ever-changing, ever-breaking mobile apps?
A real Facebook Phone will need to try a lot harder.