Facebook App Center has launched today and some are reporting that Apple should be welcoming the move. It’s true that there are some great benefits to Apple. It will drive people to download more apps through social recommendations. Apple have demonstrated they don’t do social well, so Facebook helping them seems like a smart partnership.
But it doesn’t hurt Apple, until it does. It starts a risky precedent for Apple when people start using Facebook’s store front for app discovery instead of the App Store.
Facebook are slowly and strategically building a mobile platform. They are attempting to replace native iOS apps, first Messenger and then with Camera. Now they are attempting to displace the App Store with their own discovery platform.
Make no mistake about it, this is dangerous territory for Apple. We are seeing Facebook build a mobile platform in front of our eyes.
This is Facebook’s audacious move to unseat Apple as the platform of choice for mobile users. Once people are used to thinking about Facebook as a platform for apps, there is nothing to stop them from launching their own native mobile platform. On their own hardware.
There has been much speculation that Facebook are already working on their own phone. Zuckerberg wants world domination, he doesn’t want Facebook to be limited to a single app on other people’s platforms.
However Facebook can’t just launch a mobile platform overnight and expect users to switch from iOS or Android in droves. They need to gradually educate users, and they are doing so by launching their own native app replacements and store front.
Once there is a critical mass of people using these products, and people are choosing to use Facebook as an app platform, they will have a far greater chance of success in launching their own hardware. A fighting chance to supplant iOS as the mobile platform of choice.
This has happened to Apple before.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he was proud to announce Google as a close partner. Maps integration, Youtube and Gmail, Google were heavily baked into the operating system.
Here is Steve Jobs introducing then Google CEO Eric Schmidt on stage at the iPhone keynote in 2007:
It’s the Internet in your pocket for the first time ever. Now, you can’t really think about the Internet, of course, without thinking about Google, right? And for Google, what we have on our phone, working with them is of course Google search, we have that built right into the browser. Just type what you want, hit Google and you’re off. And Google Maps. We’ve been working very closely with them to make this all happen. We’re thrilled with the result.
We know the rest of the story, and now Apple are working hard to remove all traces of Google from their platform. It’s a thermonuclear war after all.
Next week Apple are holding their Worldwide Developer Conference WWDC, where they are rumoured to announce deep integration of Facebook into iOS.
Is history about to repeat itself?
One of the biggest trends that has accelerated the growth of mobile devices over the last decade has been the marriage of technology and the liberal arts. These devices have opened up a myriad of creative avenues to the mass market, from painting applications, music creation tools and photography sharing and enhancement.
This decade, the first in the post-PC era, we will witness a symbiosis of technology and biology in consumer devices. The continued advancement of sensors in small devices and high speed connectivity will enable technology to track our health and activity in every detail.
As our population grows older, more obese, and our economy is strained, the need for technology to step in and provide self-monitoring tools will be crucial. It will be a lucrative market that will be flooded with startups looking to build wearable devices at the cross section of health, mobile and technology.
These products will enable us to better monitor our health. Friendly reminders to exercise, warnings about high blood sugar levels, and in extreme cases, automatically signalling ambulances and doctors when we need critical attention.
The Nike+ Fuelband is not the first of these devices that helps track our activity levels, but it’s probably the best. The device tracks your activity levels and converts it to a system Nike calls ‘Fuel Points’. You set your fuel goal each day through the iPhone app or Nike+ website, and the idea is to reach and exceed your goal each day.
The more energy you exert, the more points you get. It also tracks your calories and steps taken, which is great added context to the Fuel Points system, which is a more esoteric measurement not familiar to many.
However after a period of time using the device, you come to realise that it doesn’t matter too much how it calculates these points - you just want to keep beating your daily fuel goal.
The great thing about the Fuelband is that it acts as a constant reminder to stay active. Instead of sitting at your desk during your work lunch break, you now get up and go for a walk to ensure you reach your target.
The design of the band itself is very functional and comfortable. Rows of small, bright LED’s inform you of your fuel points used and other data. There is just one button on the front to toggle between the different data sets, and it also acts as sync button when held down for a few seconds. Yes, it syncs through bluetooth to the iPhone app, and this works without a hitch. You can also sync through the website using the USB cord if you want to do it old-school. In either case, all your activity data is pushed to the cloud.
The band itself is lightweight, yet it feels sturdy. I don’t feel like I’m going to break it if I toss it in a backpack or drop it on concrete. The band’s material is rubber which is prone to catch lint and scuff up, but I haven’t found it a problem. I hope in future hardware they make the band a little thinner.
The Nike+ service is accessible through the free iPhone app and the website. I find the app much easier to use, and syncing through bluetooth is far easier than plugging in through USB. The Nike+ service through both the app and website graphs your activity levels over time, includes various gamification mechanics and gives you the ability to share your results with your friends across Facebook and Twitter.
If you are interested in improving your activity levels, the Nike+ Fuelband is a great product. It will remind you to move, not through annoying notifications but simply due to it’s persistent presence on you wrist. The points system will drive you to keep reaching your daily goals, which serves as a great motivator. It’s also a beautifully designed product with it’s unassuming design, which contrasts with the futuristic LED indicator lights. Expect to get some attention when wearing the Fuelband.