It was pretty obvious that both Google and Apple had reasons not to like Facebook’s push into the phone space yesterday. But, while those companies haven’t voiced any concerns publicly, Microsoft — a Facebook investor and partner — let loose with a blog post saying it has a “people first” phone for those who want the “real thing.”
Microsoft’s “Real Thing” People Phone
From today’s post by Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president of communication for Microsoft:
I tuned into the coverage of the Facebook Home event yesterday and actually had to check my calendar a few times.
Not to see if it was still April Fools Day, but to see if it was somehow still 2011.
Because the content of the presentation was remarkably similar to the launch event we did for Windows Phone two years ago.
When we sat down with a blank sheet of paper and designed Windows Phone, we put three words on the wall to guide the team: “Put People First”.
Shaw’s post goes on to explain how the Windows Phone “People” feature unifies address books and various social services, bringing them to the Windows Phone home page and the central People app, rather than requiring that users go into separate apps, concluding:
So, while we applaud Facebook for working to give some Android owners a taste of what a “people-centric” phone can be like, we’d humbly like to suggest that you get the real thing, and simply upgrade to a Windows Phone.
When you get your Windows Phone, simply log into your Facebook account (along with Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn and Gmail) and pin your best friends and family to your start screen, and we promise you’ll be feeling even more at “home”.
Facebook’s Phone Is Facebook-Centric, Not People-Centric
Shaw is certainly correct that for anyone who really is thinking that a phone should be people-oriented, Windows Phone is much more that than Facebook. That’s because Facebook’s phone is Facebook-centric, not people-centric.
For example, I never use Facebook messaging. Indeed, I even leave my notifications off. I prefer to deal with people through email. I also have many people I connect with not just on Facebook but also through Google+ or Twitter.
The Facebook phone doesn’t help me with this. It assumes that all the people in my life are on Facebook. They’re not. Heck, my 14-year-old doesn’t even use it any longer, having decamped like many of his friends over to Instagram.
People-First Hasn’t Been Selling Phones
The idea behind what Facebook unveiled yesterday is very intriguing, and that’s especially so for anyone who lives their lives on Facebook. But if there’s promise there, “People” in Windows Phone (or Windows 8) is even more promising, unifying Twitter and Facebook together, as well as LinkedIn and a few other services (Google+ isn’t one of them, though Gmail is).
Of course, People for Windows Phone has clearly not been so compelling that it has caused a massive adoption of that platform. That suggests that while Microsoft and Facebook may now want to spar over who has the real “people first” phone and what that means, so far, people seem pretty happy living with “app first” phones like Android (without Facebook Home) or iOS.
Microsoft Not Feeling The Facebook Love
That leads to the first awkward point in all this. One of those top apps is the aforementioned Facebook-owned Instagram, which just posted about how great Android use is, a year after it launched onto that platform. But, Instagram for Windows Phone… That platform still waits, something that made Windows Phone dead-in-the-water for my 14-year-old, in a recent test I ran on whether my kids would switch platforms.
Why awkward? Microsoft owns a small share in Facebook, around 1.6%, it seems. It was an early investor in the company, too. Facebook can’t get Instagram to build an app for Windows Phones for a buddy like that?
Apparently not. And awkward again, Microsoft is Facebook’s search partner. Search partner, that is, except when it comes to the mobile web. There, Facebook Home is doing nothing to change the search defaults to Facebook Graph search. Maybe that will come, and when it does, maybe that will also bring Bing to Facebook Home phones. But for now, it stays all Google on devices where Google is already the choice.