Whether it's with the company's own phone or with the unveiling of its new "home" feature on Google's (GOOG) Android operating system, Facebook understands the importance of keeping its users engaged.
However, not everyone agrees on "home, sweet home." Some analysts are calling it a bad idea, while others are jumping for joy. Investors, however, are stuck in the middle. The prevailing question is, what does Facebook know about hardware, and does a new "Home phone" make sense?
But that's the wrong question to ask.Facebook wants/needs to stay relevant. Evolve or die has been the mantra in tech for years. To that end, Facebook doesn't feel it has a choice but to fully embrace a phone and tie in its features, especially with more and more of its users migrating from desktop to smartphones. But, Facebook wants to make that experience better.
Before you say, so what! It's not only about the hardware, it's about mobility itself. And the fact that Facebook is now putting resources toward mobility is not a surprise. Last September, Mark Zuckerberg, while speaking at Tech Crunch's Disrupt convention, hinted that the same software integrations that Facebook has built for Apple's (AAPL) iPhones, Facebook would be building for Android. Still, the street is not convinced that it makes good business sense, especially since Facebook is becoming "friendly" with chief rival Google. In a recent article, SaintsSense contributor, Tedra DeSue, made the following points: "The smartphone space is saturated. Even the almighty Apple is facing stiffer competition from other players, especially Samsung. If Facebook built its own smartphone, what kind of realistic price point could the device have to attract consumers from its competition?" "Also, I think the company would have to weigh the odds that older people would buy its products vs. younger people, considering they make up the bulk of its subscribers. Then you have to factor in the younger-people base is shrinking.
DeSue raises an interesting question. While monetization is indeed a huge question mark, I do wonder, though, can Facebook afford to not take the risk? Remember, there was a point when the street was lambasting this company for its inability to monetize mobile. Today the company is willing to dive in head first. Yet, there are doubts. It doesn't make sense. It seems odd to not (at least) give Facebook the benefit of the doubt here. And given Facebook's recent earnings report, which highlighted strong mobile adoption, this phone gamble just might pay off. Again, considering the morbid fates of desktop PC kings in Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL), Facebook has no choice to evolve, or perish with them. Worst, analysts are projecting PC sales could plummet further, between 10% and 15%, by the second half of this year. For now, the relative success of Facebook's new "home" may vary -- depending on what metric is used. But let's assume it is "mildly successful" and Facebook is able to "moderately" monetize the home platform; if the company can immediately roll it out globally at low incremental costs, while attracting more users, this stock can reach the low $40s by the end of the year. Let's not forget, Apple is expected to unveil a cheaper iPhone sometime this year. Analysts have predicted that the phone can arrive as early as July. Plus, with BlackBerry's new BB10 phones gaining traction and Samsung's continued dominance, this has become a mobile world. Instead of criticizing Facebook for dialing into this idea, the better question should be, what the heck took so long? At the time of publication the author had a position in AAPL. Follow @saintssense This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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