Facebook Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz told some 15,000 attendees at this year's CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference that a new Facebook mobile software will be available on the BlackBerry Curve smartphone, which would allow Facebook users to push photos, posts or other comments to friends also using the devices. T-Mobile USA is the first wireless carrier to offer the new Facebook for BlackBerry application, which is free to subscribers.
"Mobile is the next frontier," he said. Facebook, social-networking site that started as a place for college students to share profiles and interests, has been valued at $15 billion and yesterday received a mammoth injection of cash from Microsoft to the tune of $240 million.
Outpacing PC growth
Mr. Moskovitz said Facebook's mobile use is growing at a rate of 4%, faster than its PC growth rate of 3%. Facebook's mobile presence includes an application on Apple's iPhone, which, while a smartphone, is not technically a business device like the Blackberry.
The move into smartphones jibes with changes in Facebook's overall demographic. More than half of Facebook users are college graduates, and the 35-and-over demographic is Facebook's fastest-growing. At the same time, Facebook is growing rapidly outside the U.S. in nations where it was introduced as more than a cyber-campus, he said. For example, in Toronto, he said, one in four people is a Facebook user.
"Even at this nascent stage of the market, 19% of adult consumers who access social networks on their PCs also regularly access these same sites on their mobile phones," said Jill Aldort, senior analyst, consumer research at Yankee Group.
Evolution of the smartphone
The Facebook-BlackBerry announcement is the latest evolution of smartphones into an all-in-one device for anyone, not just harried business execs addicted -- if not tethered -- to the office. Earlier in the conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came down clearly on the side of the work-life convergence on the mobile phone.
"The mobile phone ... will become a universal remote control for your business life and your personal life. Consumers want a phone that spans their many lives," he said.
As part of his presentation, Mr. Moskovitz quipped that the big question on everyone's mind at the conference is "What will Google be doing in the mobile space?" He was referring to Google's push for an open platform cellphone system, which would allow users to run any program (including, of course, Google programs) on their mobile devices. The Federal Communications Commission plans to auction off a chunk of wireless spectrum. Google has been cozying up to handset makers and carriers to be sure its services would play a starring role on their networks and devices. A long-rumored Google phone could make an appearance as early as 2008, according to published reports this summer.
In a pre-conference session Oct. 22 on mobile marketing, a panel moderator deflected an audience member's question addressed to a Google representative about the search giant's designs in mobile, saying the speaker was being shielded from "future-looking" statements. But the feisty Mr. Ballmer was clearer about Microsoft's intentions at the session: He stated that Microsoft will not be participating in a wireless auction.