A Phone is the Beginning of Facebook’s Downward Spiral

Who wants a Facebook phone? Facebook does, apparently.

Hopefully the Facebook phone will not look like thisTalk of a dedicated Facebook phone resurfaced this weekend with a report from Nick Bilton in the New York Times that said the social network “hopes to release its own smartphone by next year” and has been hiring hardware engineers and developers—including several from Apple (AAPL)—as part of that effort. According to the sources Bilton talked to, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg sees the mobile-phone project as something crucial to the future of the company, which just went public in a somewhat rocky IPO.

Facebook is a social networking company. With a phone of their own I can see teenagers and housewives that have not already adopted their first iPhone will be attracted to Facebook’s alternative, but let’s get serious…

A Facebook phone will be for play. The phone will be about social gaming, popular news feeds, birthday announcements, and the occasional photo album of a ski trip.

But a good smartphone needs to appeal to all users—not only Facebook’s fans. The iPhone works for a lot of people because it’s so useful for businesses, friends, and family interaction. It’s useful for social and so much more of import. Facebook is the distraction we seek. A Facebook smartphone won’t work because smartphones are about much more than distractions to everyday users.

“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.”

Um, that’s already happened, and even when Facebook offers their own device, won’t they continue to support apps for Facebook on others’ devices? I suspect this Facebook employee isn’t the right spokesman for this new phone venture.

If people tease Apple’s products for being consumer and not business friendly, then what do you expect people will make of Facebook’s phone?

And if Facebook really wants to make a wave with this phone, then they will not make it, because they are not appealing to businessmen. No one wants to use Facebook for all their business needs. And if Facebook tried to market itself with new features and provide utility in their smartphone for professional users, they would hinder the interest of fun-loving consumers.

I just don’t see how this would work to Facebook’s long-term benefit. It will be an embarrassment, not a success story.

In many ways, the battle to control the mobile experience is a logical extension of the walled-garden building that both Facebook and more recently Google have been engaged in—that is, an attempt to control almost every interaction with users and thereby convince (or force) them to spend more time within the company’s ecosystem, where more data about them can be harvested. That was the rationale behind the launch of Google+, and it has been Facebook’s primary motivation for virtually everything, including the development of the “open graph” platform. Business Week »

Hey, isn’t that one of the reasons Google lovers despise Apple? Don’t they dislike the “walled garden?” I don’t like playing the part of critic, but this appears hypocritical of these companies. Google and Facebook have said they are in favor of open source for developers, but if they are really interested in control, then they are attempting to use several moves from Apple’s playbook.