Sooner or Later, Facebook Will Launch Its Own Phone

The Social Network Could Integrate Your Digital Life Into a Handset in Ways Google Will Never Be Able to

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Change happens slowly. It took us years before we noticed that Microsoft was upending a tech industry that, until the 1990s, IBM dominated. However, if you squinted, you saw this starting in the 1980s when the mainframe era was ending.

Then Google changed the game for Microsoft in the 2000s when the desktop lost some of its dominance to the broadband-enabled web -- but, as with IBM, this shift started earlier, back in the 1990s.

Now, it could happen again.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.

Just as everyone is thinking Google is unstoppable comes Facebook. Over time, we may soon witness another shift as the web evolves from an intent-driven medium where you need to tell it what you want to one where content and ads find you through the lens of your friends and their digital footprints. However, if the desktop was the battleground in the 1990s and the web was the battleground in the 2000s, then mobile is where the battle for dominance will take place next -- this includes attention, and thus advertising.

Mobile phones supplant PCs
According to Morgan Stanley's Mary Meeker, more people will connect to the internet via mobile devices than PCs in five years. Meanwhile, Forrester reports that 17% of U.S. consumers have smartphones. This means that 83% currently don't.

Mobile is a far far larger market than mainframes, PCs or even the web. It will have lots and lots of winners in hardware, software and services. This is why I believe Facebook can't sit on the sidelines anymore. It will be on every device, but it will eventually will try to launch its own hardware too.

Facebook is competing with Google for time, attention and ad dollars. With Google clearly serious about phones and Apple buying up mobile ad companies, Facebook can't solely rely just on others to carry its application if it wants to dominate what will increasingly be a mobile market for content and ads. It will want to have a deeper relationship with its users.

Facebook easily has the brand equity to launch its own phone (most likely with a partner at first) and marry it to your address book, photos, videos and events in ways that Google can never match because Facebook is more social. Facebook gets connections and how to use the data to make your life better.

Much of what Facebook brings you closer to are mobile experiences: your friends, your events, your photos and local businesses. These experiences are made for mobile phones. So, mark my words, Facebook will launch a mobile phone. But this isn't a zero-sum game. There will be lots of winners.

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