April 4 - Facebook is struggling in attempts to grab more mobile screen time with a new smartphone app as Google, Amazon and Apple launch or plan to launch new devices in this year’s battle for mobile dominance. Conway G. Gittens reports.
SOUNDBITE: MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Today we are finally going to talk about that Facebook phone or more accurately we are going to talk about how you can turn your Android phone into a great social device." And with that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the next move in the battle for mobile dominance. Facebook Home is more than just a plain app, but less than a full-fledged branded phone. It incorporates the social network's news feed and instant messaging with Android text messaging, and even throws in an app manager. The goal: keep mobile users connected to Facebook longer -so advertisers can dig deeper. But Kevin Burden of Strategy Analytics says Facebook won't be knocking out its competitors, who offer much more. SOUNDBITE: KEVIN BURDEN, DIRECTOR OF MOBILITY, STRATEGY ANALYTICS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Until they continue to build out that platform beyond more than just a social networking platform, they are probably most at risk of being eclipsed." Doubts about Facebook's mobile strategy have dogged the stock since its debut, leaving it roughly 30 percent below its opening price. In that same time frame, shares of Google are up by just about the same amount. Right now, it's Google that has the best position in the mobile world, says Mashable Business Editor Todd Wasserman. SOUNDBITE: TODD WASSERMAN, BUSINESS EDITOR, MASHABLE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They are a company who makes most of their money through advertising that's why they are getting into hardware. They want to get the reach as far as they can get." That position is not without challenges from complex relationships. Facebook's "Home" app is built on Google's Android platform, but a search function takes aim at Google's main revenue source. Meanwhile, sources say Google is readying the launch of its low-price second generation Nexus 7 tablet, but it has to go up against Amazon's Kindle Fire line, which is expanding and runs on Google Android by the way. For Burden, the next battleground in the mobile world - whether tablet or smartphone - comes down to one thing: price. SOUNDBITE: KEVIN BURDEN, DIRECTOR OF MOBILITY, STRATEGY ANALYTICS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The battle for the mid-tier in smartphones really is for trying to get that additional billion users. If you think about it, only about a third of the world's population is connected to the internet. There are a lot of users out there, a lot of potential users out there who don't have a mobile phone, that certainly doesn't have a smartphone." And that puts Apple at a disadvantage. Analysts say even if Apple comes out with a lower-priced iPhone, the price will still be at a premium to others on the market, leaving the door open for Samsung and even HTC, which is first to put out the Facebook-dominated phone. The price? Only $99.