Users of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows and Phone mobile operating systems have had access to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) for well over a year now. However, since first releasing its Facebook app download in April of last year, Microsoft mobile users haven't been able to utilize a lot of the features Facebook fans have come to expect. Why? That's the price Microsoft and its customers have paid for being a distant third to Android and iOS in the mobile OS market.
The difference is that Facebook was more than happy to develop a seamless app for users of the two leading operating systems, which seems like a no-brainer considering how much of the market Android and iOS command. That left Microsoft on the outside looking in, and forced to develop its own pseudo-Facebook app. The result was less than ideal for many who covet their ability to access social media on their mobile devices. But Microsoft hasn't been sitting idle when it comes to improving its OS user's experience, as its recent, updated Facebook app will attest.
Bigger and better
The first thing Windows mobile users will notice after updating the new Facebook app is the look and feel is more closely aligned with what desktop, Android, and iOS users are accustomed to seeing when they log into their account. In addition to the new look, Microsoft's updated app will also give users improved performance. How improved? Microsoft didn't get into specifics.
Perhaps the most important feature of the new app is the ability to upload pictures and videos taken with a Windows OS device directly to a user's Facebook account. As Facebook users know, pictures and videos are an integral part of the social media experience. Microsoft's updated app also supports more languages then previous versions.
Though Microsoft mobile OS users aren't being forced to download Facebook's Messenger app as Android and iOS users will soon be required to do, its new app is fully integrated with Messenger. With Facebook's recent push to move users to Messenger, and assuming Microsoft can grow its share of the mobile OS market, don't be surprised if Windows users join Android and iOS device owners in downloading Messenger separately.
Microsoft took the additional step of integrating its People Hub online contacts feature with its new Facebook app, too. With the push of a button, People Hub allows users to shoot messages to their social media contacts, including Facebook friends, seamlessly.
What's the big deal?
Nearly two-thirds of all smartphone and tablet users access their social media accounts each month according to eMarketer, and with over 1.3 billion total monthly average users (MAUs), and more than 1 billion mobile MAUs, its safe to say a lot of those on-the-go folks are logging into Facebook. Now, Windows OS users will have a similar social media experience as Android and iOS device owners enjoy.
Along with social media account access, sharing video and pictures is the third most popular activity of smartphone owners, behind only texting and email. Of course, posting and sharing pictures is a significant part of the Facebook experience. Now, that can be done using a Windows device, too.
Facebook has made no secret of its intention to become a mobile-first app, and all of those users make it clear its mobile ambitions have been an undeniable success. Now that Facebook is mobile, it's simply too big for any OS provider to ignore, or even provide its users with a less-than-ideal Facebook experience.
Final Foolish thoughts
As Microsoft demonstrated with its recently announced, updated tools for app developers, CEO Satya Nadella is embracing his cloud-first, mobile-first push. The availability of apps plays an important role in determining consumer's smartphone and tablet buying decisions, and Microsoft hasn't kept up.
However, the updated Facebook app demonstrates that Microsoft is aware that it has fallen short in mobile apps, and is taking the necessary steps to remedy the situation. And making friends with Facebook could prove to be a giant step for Microsoft.