Facebook’s smartphone Buffy isn’t a smart idea afterall
Why Buffy could be a problem child for Facebook?
Buffy: Chances are that this name would remind you of the Vampire Slayer, as it did with me when I first heard of it. Wonder who Facebook had on its mind as the Vampire for its first ever smartphone called Buffy. Possibly it’s a combination of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon and more. HTC will be producing the Buffy which will deeply integrate the social network into its platform. So then, after all these years of going round and round mobiles and smartphones as the delivery platform for their social services, Facebook finally is all in!
Slowly but surely all these big players are beginning to acquire, buy or subcontract all elements of the delivery value chain – and become the Walmarts of the digital world. Walmart puts all the shopping needs behind one door for the customer. Apple wants the customer to buy one iPhone and spend all his time in its virtual app world. Google’s the same way. To compete, Facebook needed a piece of hardware. Facebook has the liberty to choose between Android, Windows Phone or even create a new OS (WebOS anyone?). Facebook would obviously opt to heavily customize the Operating systems and store fronts and Android is a readily available choice to do that.
Globally, smartphones and tablets are converging at ecosystems as these become devices to primarily consume data from the eco-systems. Amazon’s success with the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet is a shinning example and given the success of Amazon, Amazon is thinking of a move into smartphones. Given that Facebook has a been building an apps based ecosystem and is becoming the de-facto web standard OS, Facebook nursing intentions in the smartphones and tablets is a logical extension of their clout to the physical world of devices.
However, as Facebook pursues building a smartphone, it risks alienating far more important partners – a lesson they should have picked up from Microsoft’s Zune fiasco. Arguably, the Zune is one of the most expensive failures that Microsoft has ever had, all because it betrayed its partners and then under-resourced the effort.
Is it really going to be able to promote a piece of hardware? Does it really want to go to war with Apple and every other device manufacturer? Right now Apple, Microsoft and others spend lots of time on Facebook, but they aren’t likely to continue if they view Facebook as a potential competitor. Facebook should be focused on building the best Facebook app for every major platform. Going into competition with these platforms and phone providers could alone turn them into the next Microsoft Zune or Kin. This may partially explain why Microsoft is thinking of building its own social network all of a sudden.
Facebook may be dreaming of the upside of being the next Apple, without considering the collateral damage and opportunity cost that is more likely to make them the next Zune/Kin. However, its equations with major platform operators is destined to sour with the hardware approach no matter how much parity Facebook provides to the deal.