Facebook Home is not a threat to Android or Google (neither is Samsung or Amazon)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Facebook Home is not a threat to Android or Google (neither is Samsung or Amazon)
There is always a lot of talk around products that are supposedly "threats to Android" or "threats to Google", but we think that those arguments are looking at the puzzle the wrong way. Facebook Home is something wholly different and interesting, but it isn't a threat to Android. Samsung is by far the dominant handset maker in the Android ecosystem, but it isn't a threat to Google. Amazon completely forked Android and stripped out Google altogether, but you know what? It isn't a threat to Google.

The reason comes from a reminder we gave when talking about the possible positive effects of Facebook Home: Google created Android this way for a reason. Google is not filled with a bunch of idiots. Andy Rubin and Larry Page are incredibly smart guys. The decision to make Android open and highly customizable was not one that was taken lightly. Google could have made Android closed like iOS, Windows Phone, or BlackBerry, but it didn't. Google created Android to be malleable, even if it meant complete forks like the Kindle Fire. This was a conscious decision, and Andy and Larry fully understood the consequences of that choice, and here's why:

Android creates its own competition

A threat is a far different thing than competition, and what Android does is create its own competition. Facebook Home is not a threat to Android, it is competition for all Android handset makers, including Google. Facebook Home changes the idea of what Android can be, but even on dedicated devices like the HTC First, if you don't like it, you can revert back to stock Android, which is pure Google. And, if Home becomes successful (still a big if) it will force everyone else to create better experiences on Android. If consumers respond well to Facebook Home  (which they haven't been in the early going), Samsung will have to rethink TouchWiz, HTC will have to rethink Sense, and even Google will have to rethink stock Android. And, those are all good things

Competition forces everyone to be better, including Google. Amazon's Kindle Fire platform isn't a threat to Android or to Google, because as yet it hasn't proven that it will overtake Google Android at all. Kindle Fire is good for content consumption and light gaming, but anything beyond that is still a tough sell because it is incredibly hard to replicate the Google Apps experience. Forks are a big risk for those that create them, because forks are motivation for Google to make sure the Google Apps experience on Android is the best it can be. Even if a user isn't a big Google Apps user, the inclusion of dedicated and high quality Google Maps and YouTube apps on Google Android devices gives those devices an advantage on a forked system.

This is why we don't give all that much credence to the idea that Samsung would leverage its dominance in the Android ecosystem to completely fork Android. There are plenty of reasons why Samsung could split from Google, but no one has given a compelling reason why Samsung should. Android costs Samsung nothing, and most of Samsung's most compelling features would not exist without Google's work on Android. Smart Stay, Smart Scroll, and all of the other eye-tracking features are built on the facial recognition services Google added to Android in 4.0. 

Samsung could split from Android, but in the process, it would lose all of the Google Apps, including the Play Store. Samsung would have to make its own YouTube app, and partner up with a mapping service, unless it wants to go through the same thing Apple did with Apple Maps. If Samsung purchases a Play Store alternative like GetJar or Slide ME, only then would it be time to consider the company a real threat. But, if Samsung completely abandons Android, there's no guarantee that users will follow Samsung away from Google.

Conclusion

Ultimately, all of these things exist in the world that Google created, and it's the way that Google wants it. Google wants companies to try new things with Android like Facebook Home. Google wants companies to be successful with Android like Samsung. Google even wants complete forks like Kindle Fire. None of these are threats, they are competition within the ecosystem, pushing Google to make its Apps layer better, and pushing other manufacturers to work harder. The reality is that Google needs all the competition it can get, because there isn't too much left in the mobile sphere. 

iOS is really the only viable competition outside of the Android ecosystem right now, but even iOS is really only major competition in the US and relatively minor competition everywhere else. Windows Phone is making strides, especially in Europe, but isn't there yet. And, all of the other competitors are either on their way out (BlackBerry, Symbian), or haven't even been released yet (Ubuntu, Firefox, Tizen). 

Calling something a "threat" implies that it will actually hurt Android or Google in some way. As yet, there is no reason to believe that Facebook Home will hurt Android at all. In fact, it seems like a better option than a complete fork. Kindle Fire has found its niche and doesn't look like it's moving past that. Samsung has the potential to be a threat, but it also has plenty of reasons not to rock the boat. And, while all of these companies are adding value to Android, it keeps Google working harder to make its offerings even better, especially with the new devices it will be pushing out through Motorola. 

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44 Comments

1. osmaankhaan unregistered

no threat to google or android so case solved and closed.

9. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Unfortunately this does creates a big problem, fragmentation. Too many customizations makes things inconsistent especially with version upgrades.

13. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Inconsistency is only a problem for people who use a bunch of different devices all the time. If you use one device, there's no such thing as inconsistency, because there's no reference points for differentiation.

19. fur0n

Posts: 82; Member since: Jun 13, 2012

Plus with the help of CyanogenMod you can have all your devices the same and on the newest version of android!

28. omar300

Posts: 210; Member since: Jun 24, 2012

Well there is nexus line up for people who fear fragmentation. i think of fragmentation as a flavor of android. fragmentation is nothing new. all not so smartphone used to have their own java interface. nokia had their own, samsung and lg and everyone had their own. none of that stopped people from buying it.

39. nanbanda

Posts: 17; Member since: Mar 30, 2013

they start with something but end with another thing, history to repeat itself, lets wait and c.

49. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Fragmentation is history .. SJ is long dead and with him went all his RANTS ...

20. joseph98

Posts: 167; Member since: Feb 03, 2012

Actually instead of saying facebook home is a threat to google, I can say the opposite. I am not into facebook but I liked facebook home somehow after I installed it in my gn2. Imagine if facebook home is only available for Android then I guarantee you that all facebook lovers would love to switch from ios or wp8 to android just to get this app. Time will tell if I am right.

23. bojan

Posts: 188; Member since: Oct 06, 2012

it is treat to google +

2. JojoGo101

Posts: 211; Member since: Dec 17, 2012

I like Android cause not all are the same. Take the Lumia 920 and 8X. Same CPU, same GPU. Same OS, no difference. Take the One and S4. One has Sense, one has TouchWiz. one has a thermometer, the other doesn't. One has a Exynos CPU and GPU. One has a Snapdragon CPU and a Adreno 330 GPU... The people want choice. There's ANDROID, then there's everything else.

8. MobileJunkieJr

Posts: 46; Member since: Mar 15, 2013

Honestly, I like the idea of having multiple OS for me to choose from. But so far Android is the best there is...there's so much you can do within the ecosystem. And as a result Samsung, HTC, Sony, Motorola and such can differentiate themselves from each other even though they're from the same base. I think Android still has a long journey of success.

16. SleepingOz unregistered

Beware when you say that Android is the best OS, although it's true, some haters might not like it and call you a fanboy. That's being said, I agree with what you said. Even if they're all running on the same platform, they offer different experiences. And that's the beauty of Android!

18. MobileJunkieJr

Posts: 46; Member since: Mar 15, 2013

O, to clear the confusion i'll add that i like all OS and OEMs. Best as in what the world also admits...it is capable of being everywhere. WP, iOS and such hold their own status...and they're good, but still Android edges slightly in terms of customizability, implementation and adaptation.

3. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 556; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

if Nokia would have adopted android & done something different like Facebook home while adding smart camera innovations, they definitely would have been on top.Instead they are busy with MS filing antitrust lawsuit.

7. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

While I believe Android is a great OS and Nokia would have been much profitable with it, I think that competition is required for an OS to get better. Android doesn't really have much competition other than iOS, which is showing its age. If Nokia would have adopted Android, then there really wouldn't be any competition at all and Google would refuse to make Android better just like what MartyK wrote.

12. MobileJunkieJr

Posts: 46; Member since: Mar 15, 2013

I concur! Competition is necessary for the growth, not only for Android, but also for every OS it is competiting against.

4. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

The Only Threat to Android is Google, if Google gets lazy or refuse to make AndroidOS better and better then it will cease or lose market just like the OS before and during Android.

5. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Exactly!

35. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Notice there no law suit between Amazon and google. Samsung with Google. Those that benefit from Android source code so far had no compete with each other in an adverse manner which i think is what Google has successfully achieve. In fact they are ally to those that wanted to attack them in court. Brilliant!

6. Troysyx

Posts: 181; Member since: Jul 30, 2012

Great article!

11. gmracer1

Posts: 646; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

lmao! There isn't anything that threatens Android! It's nothing but tickles xD

17. TheBitterTruth unregistered

Neither to the blinkfeed?

21. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Of course it is not a threat, it is just piece of bloatware...

24. bojan

Posts: 188; Member since: Oct 06, 2012

it is treat to google +

25. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

Hey Michael are you sure smart stay etc is built on 4.0 facial recognition or are you just assuming cause the galaxy s which runs gingerbread pre 4.0 has facial recognition too so maybe its not built on face unlock....as for the article completely agree, every time someone builds something on android the nerd techs all jump to the conclusion that its a threat..like you said Google are not stupid and expected android to be modified etc it was the whole point of android.

30. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Face Unlock is only part of it. Back in Android 4.0 the stock camera also had functionality that would morph your face to show off the facial recognition that Google had built in. That stuff has since been pulled though.

32. jcpwn2004

Posts: 314; Member since: Jan 18, 2012

Nothing is a threat to android. The only way android will be in trouble is if they start getting lazy and stop innovating. edit: just noticed basically the same post by martyK above lol.

38. abish1234

Posts: 51; Member since: Oct 22, 2011

Lovely article michael :)

40. Shrihari

Posts: 104; Member since: Jan 29, 2013

firstly people like samsung because of the android in it...everyone hate bada like anything(which itself is a complete copy of android ui)...that java based os is the boring s**t of all time with no useful apps....if samsung abandons android then there existed a company called Samsung..

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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