FORTUNE -- Now we know: The Facebook Phone is neither a phone, nor an operating system. Instead, Zuckerberg unveiled a downloadable collection of apps, available April 12, that will be supported on select Android phones to start, including the $99 HTC First, the first device to come pre-loaded with it. Home, as the whole kit of software is called, doesn't replace Android but modifies parts of the operating system like the phone's lock screen and home screen so users can more readily check Facebook updates and notifications, and communicate with other users by way of a new unified messaging feature combining Messenger and text called "Chat heads."
"We wanted to start off trying to rethink some of those core things," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with Fortune, talking about Android features. "How could these be better if, instead of the current system you have, they were people-centric in all the themes that Facebook stands for."
Of course, rethinking the way people communicate is standard for the social network. And whether Facebook Home winds up in the hands of a significant number of Facebook's (FB) 1 billion-plus members, or becomes another failed experiment, there's no denying Zuck's app offers an unprecedented degree of social on the smartphone.
That's something even a successful company like Apple (AAPL) has yet to manage. According to John Gruber, writer of the Apple-centric blog Daring Fireball, the company's latest version of its mobile software, iOS 7, is allegedly running behind schedule but will sport a systemwide overhaul of the its interface. Ive knows what he's doing. But just in case, here are five things Cupertino can learn from Facebook this week:
Don't force the marriage of desktop and mobile. As Zuckerberg told Fortune, Facebook on mobile doesn't closely resemble the desktop experience -- a strategy that seems to be working as the social network continues to expand its footprint on smartphones and tablets. (Indeed, 157 million Facebook users checked the social network daily via mobile devices as of last January.) That's a different approach from Apple's, which as of the release of Mac OS X "Mountain Lion" last July, saw a serious infusion of features once found solely in iOS. Some of those features feel organic, but others, like a separate screen for apps called Launchpad, seem superfluous.
If it's not your strong suit, look elsewhere. Apple is master of many things -- industrial design, elegant interfaces, tablets -- but let's face it: Social has never been one of them. One need look no further than the failed, awkwardly named iTunes social networking service Ping for proof. Although Apple now allows some degree of Twitter and Facebook integration, the company was slow to embrace the two companies -- particularly Facebook -- and Zuckerberg hints the Home experience on Android will eventually come to iOS. We think Apple could do with leaning on Facebook even further. A unified messaging system like the one Home sports is a novel idea, at least for avid Messenger users.
Relax -- just a little bit. A Home-like experience for iOS would likely be great for users who want it, but why the hold-up? Apple's tight reigns over iOS development is likely the culprit. Though Zuckerberg told Fortune Facebook has a good relationship with Apple, he also suggested when it comes to iOS development, you really need to work with them. "We'd love to offer this on iPhone, and we just can't today," he explained. "We will work with Apple to do the best experience that we can within what they want, but I think that a lot of people who really like Facebook -- and just judging from the numbers, people are spending a fifth of their time in phones on Facebook. That's a lot of people."
Don't commodify the hardware. With Home, the social network is front and center. That's understandable -- it wants to get on as many Android smartphones as possible. But the HTC handset that will launch with the app pre-loaded hardly looks cutting edge. (Very telling: No hardware features were given during the announcement.) And let's face it, it's hard to get excited over a piece of software running on ho-hum hardware. Our point being this: As Apple explores new revenue streams, particularly in areas like China, and mulls over more inexpensive iPhone models, it shouldn't treat its hardware with any less emphasis than it already does. Because for Facebook, HTC's average-seeming handset sounds to us like a missed opportunity.
For British viewers, it's better than a guest spot on Sesame Street or Mister Rogers
FORTUNE -- Not having grown up watching the world's longest-running children's program, the news Friday that Sir Jony Ive, designer of every Apple (AAPL) product since the Bondi blue iMac, had won a gold Blue Peter badge meant nothing to me. Having seen the clip above, I think get it now.
Thanks to Quartz's Christopher Mims for MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 20, 2013 4:50 PM ET
With two taps of a sword, Jony Ive becomes Sir Jonathan
FORTUNE -- Britain's Princess Anne does the honors, then she and Apple's (AAPL) senior vice president for industrial design have a nice long chat.
BELOW: A 2:24 ITV report includes a brief interview with Ive and footage of him and the Queen.Philip Elmer-DeWitt - May 24, 2012 12:25 PM ET
The senior VP's chief weakness, writes Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, is his naked ambition
He's young (43). Comfortable on stage (played Sweeney Todd in high school). Has serious nerd credentials (Stanford, NeXT). Shares Steve Jobs' obsession with detail (keeps a jeweler's loupe in his office to check every pixel on every icon). And the division he heads -- mobile software -- drives nearly 70% of Apple's (AAPL) income.
"He's a sharp, down-to-earth, and talented MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 17, 2012 5:29 AM ET
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"I am TechCrunch and TechCrunch is me." -- Michael Arrington (The New York Times)
* David Carr over at The New York Times looks at TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington's path to becoming a venture capitalist and how his latest move -- Crunch Fund -- further complicates TechCrunch's editorial MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Sep 6, 2011 3:30 AM ET
Adam Lashinsky's "Inside" story in the new issue of Fortune is packed with juicy revelations
After the simultaneous, and more-or-less disastrous, launch of the iPhone 3G and MobileMe in the summer of 2008 -- the launch one Gizmodo reader dubbed "iPocalypse" -- Steve Jobs summoned the MobileMe team to the Town Hall auditorium on Apple's (AAPL) Cupertino campus for an obscenity-laden dressing down. "You've tarnished Apple's reputation," he told them. "You MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 7, 2011 9:30 AM ET
A profile in the Daily Mail blames it on an assignment to design a toilet
Lots of new details about the man it calls "the most successful designer on the planet" in Rob Waugh's long biographical profile of Jonathan ("Jony") Ive in Sunday's Daily Mail, starting with the toilet design that drove him out of England:
"The manner of his departure for the U.S. is particularly galling to Clive Grinyer, who MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 21, 2011 6:51 AM ET
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