Facebook Home: The Death of Android

Facebook Home Chat-heat (Facebook)As a core operating system, Android is thriving. As a brand–and a user experience–it is dead. Facebook just killed it.

Android’s brand demise has been coming for a long time. Phone makers have been taking advantage of Android’s open architecture to install their own modified versions, such as Samsung’s TouchWiz. The most recent Android launches, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One, have barely mentioned Android. And in announcing Facebook Home, Mark Zuckerberg talked about Android only to say that Facebook was taking advantage of the openness of both Android and the Google Play Store to let anyone with a fairly recent Android phone replace the Android experience with the Facebook Home experience.

I dont know how many people will want Facebook ┬ácompletely dominating their phone experience. I’m out of ┬áthe target demographic by more than a generation, so I’m probably a poor judge. But I’m pretty sure Facebook’s announcement won’t be the last of its sort. Maybe we’ll see a Twitter Home, or a Microsoft Home built around a growing suite of Windows/Skype/Xbox/SkyDrive products.

All of this seems to leave Google in some difficulty. Facebook is a direct competitor to Google’s primary business of delivering customers’ eyeballs to advertisers. Google’s considerable difficulty in monetizing Android just got considerably worse, and things are likely to go downhill from here.

Of course, one thing Google could do, at the risk of being evil, is lock down future releases of Android. That, however, might well be locking the barn door too late. Open source and free (as in speech) versions of Android are out there and Google action might well be viewed as just another fork of Android.

Google never seemed to know just what it wanted to do with Android. Now it may be too late to figure it out.