Facebook’s unveiling of Home yesterday appears to have ruffled a few feathers over at Windows Phone HQ. Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft, has criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new feature for its underlying similarities with the Windows Phone mobile operating system.
In a blog post entitled ‘Welcome to the People Party,’ Shaw explains rather mockingly how he had to check his calendar “a few times” to remind himself that the event wasn’t taking place in 2011.
“Because the content of the presentation was remarkably similar to the launch event we did for Windows Phone two years ago,” he explains.
Shaw’s frustration is somewhat understandable. Windows Phone is a markedly different platform to iOS and Android because of its innovative approach to the homescreen. Rather than showing a grid of icons with a small blip to denote a notification, Microsoft has tried to bring all of that content front and center.
The result is Live Tiles, a collection of square panels that can be rearranged and resized to show information in real-time. The design mantra, Shaw says, was identical to that of Facebook: “Put People First.”
The result is a mobile platform that has more than a few features in common with Facebook Home. They don’t look the same, nor do they perform the same, but the problems and how they address them arguably share some DNA.
“Instead of rows and rows of apps, why not have a screen full of the people who matter most to you, and start with them?
Instead of having to launch an app to see what’s behind that notification icon, why not just bring the content to the home screen?
Instead of having SMS and Facebook Messaging as separate chat threads, why not bring them together in one conversation?
Instead of having separate address books for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype, why not bring those together in one place?
Instead of having photos on your phone and photos in Facebook, why not bring those photos together in one place?
Instead of having to launch an app just to check in, why not just tap your own face and do it directly?”
Facebook Home is very different to Windows Phone, but it’s not difficult to understand why some senior executives at Microsoft are growing a little annoyed. Worried, even. Facebook is the king of social networking at the moment and any foray into a mobile OS, no matter how small, is sure to put people on edge.
By tackling one of the most distinct and unique features about Windows Phone, Facebook could jeopardize Microsoft’s position as the so-called “third pillar” of the smartphone industry.
Shaw doesn’t seem too worried though. In his blog post he belittles Facebook Home, explaining that Android is “complicated enough without adding another skin built around another metaphor”.
One of his closing comments is also far more critical: “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.”
There’s some truth in this. Straight out of the box, users can log into their Facebook account, as well as other social networks such as Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn and Gmail, and begin pinning friends and family to their home screen.
Windows Phone has been doing this longer than Facebook and improved its mobile operating system with subsequent releases. The problem is that Windows Phone is still far behind Android and iOS in terms of its market share.
If it hasn’t been able to persuade consumers to switch to a Windows Phone device in the last two years, what chance does it have with Facebook Home in the picture?
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