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How Does Google Really Feel About Facebook Home?

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 5, 2013 at 7:30PM

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Google says it doesn't mind Facebook Home, since it shows continued innovation driven by Android. Still, it can't help but be a little bit bitter, even if Big G won't admit it.

Yesterday, social networking giant Facebook (FB 0.71%) unveiled its new Facebook Home suite of apps and tweaks. The package features heavy integration of numerous Facebook services directly into various Google (GOOGL -1.38%) Android devices, and will soon be available for broader download from Google Play.

Facebook Home isn't quite a full-fledged fork of the operating system, like the route that has successfully pursued. Instead, it's just a heavy modification that sits directly on top of the operating system, but hijacks numerous key features. You might even consider it a "half-fork."

The standard Google search box is removed from the home screen. Actually, both the home screen and lock screen are replaced by Cover Feed, which will eventually include Facebook's ads -- and not Google's. Mark Zuckerberg even argued that Facebook Home will end up being "really good for Android."

That may be true since his point is that Home may boost developer interest in Android, since most developers "put most of their efforts" toward Apple's (AAPL -1.07%) iPhone. However, as Google continues to lose more and more control over Android, what's good for Android as a platform may not be good for Google as a business.

Google's open stance on platforms facilitated Home, and Facebook didn't even have to collaborate with its ad rival, even though Big G knew what Facebook was up to. "Google's Android is open so we don't have to work with them," Zuckerberg noted.

That's in contrast to Facebook's relationship with Apple. Since Apple is set on maintaining control at all times, Facebook would need a lot more cooperation from Cupertino to make Home for iOS a reality. Zuckerberg acknowledged that Apple would have to be willing to partner. For now, the existing levels of Facebook and iOS integration will have to suffice.

Facebook integration in iOS 6. Source: Apple.

In a statement to VentureBeat, a Google spokesperson said:

The Android platform has spurred the development of hundreds of different types of devices. This latest collaboration demonstrates the openness and flexibility that has made Android so popular. And it's a win for users who want a customized Facebook experience from Google Play -- the heart of the Android ecosystem -- along with their favorite Google services like Gmail, Search, and Google Maps.

These services are still present on Home-equipped Androids, but far less prominent. I wouldn't expect Google to shamelessly bash Home, but I also wouldn't expect the search giant to tell investors how it really feels about the potential threat.

Home is the latest in a string of hijackings and the most recent evidence of how Google has lost control of Android.

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