Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Apple will beat Facebook

Looking at the extension of iMessage to the desktop made me think about how Apple can take on Facebook and win.  Lets see what Facebook have over Apple technically...

  1. Multiple people in one conversation
  2. Broadcast conversations with 'followers'
Now Apple have already integrated Twitter into the iPhone but lets assume that long term the folks from Cupertino want total control.  What do they need to do?
  1. Add a 'message thread' function to iMessage so its not just a stream between two people
  2. Add the ability to talk in groups
  3. Add the ability to broadcast status updates
Applications can compete easily by having some form of multiplayer iCloud sync, or in the same way they already do via 3rd party servers.  What more could Apple do however than Facebook?
  1. Integrate the status update piece into Contacts so before you call you see the status and can see the recent messages
  2. Integrate the group chat dimension by having 'groups' in Contacts (umm almost Circle like)
  3. Provide multi-participant Facetime to switch from iMessage to group comms
The point here is that technically Facebook don't have much that Apple couldn't make standard Mac OS X and more importantly iOS functionality.  Indeed much of this would be a welcomed integrated upgrade to those things (rather than a clear market grab like Google+) so people would 'naturally' start using these facilities as they are on their phone/desktop.  This would increase the link to Apple products in those communities (much as Blackberry used to see).

An added advantage of Apple's approach is that it can remove the view of a 'big central server' and instead create a more federated view of inclusion than Facebook.  This is liable to help increase people's engagement levels and unlike Facebook Apple doesn't need to drive revenue via advertising or selling people, it wants to drive that via more people on its platform as those people hand over real hard cash.

Facebook's big risk is that its network ceases to be the cool and only place to network and that other social based approaches take off.  Apple are ideally placed in the consumer space and have the platform control mentality to drive this.  iMessage is only the start of the evolution, the question is just how much engagement does Apple want to have?

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