April 5, 2013
Facebook Inc. is trying to rebuild the mobile experience- around itself.
The Silicon Valley company on Thursday unveiled new software for devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system, called "Home," that gives the social networking company's content top placement on smartphones. Instead of displaying a phone's traditional menu of apps, Home takes over a handset's cover screen-the first layer or images that appear when a phone is turned on-populating it with posts from a user's news feed, photos and messages from friends. Home will come preinstalled on a new smartphone from HTC Corp. and will be available April 12 to download from Google's app store for use on other new Android phones. It represents Facebook's boldest move yet to take a more central role in the mobile-device world-a play that should also help it sell more ads on smartphones. "You're going to be able to turn your Android phone into a great social phone," said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, during a briefing at the company's campus here. "It becomes the home of your phone."
The software acts less like a single app than a collection of them stitched into the top layer of Android. Mr. Zuckerberg called it "a whole lot deeper than any other app." Upon turning on a smartphone, a user will see images from Facebook updates cover the entire screen, while pertinent text and icons of friends float on the top. Simple gestures prompt interactions with Facebook, such as a double tap to "like" a photo, or a swipe to move to the next post. Home also features a tool called "Chat Heads." It pops up small icons of friends when they send a Facebook or text message, which can be viewed when using another app. These also can be easily dragged, moved or pushed off the screen by the user, Facebook said. The Home application also comes with a launcher, or a menu populated with a users' favorite apps and basic Android apps. Key Facebook tools, such as photos, status updates and check-ins, are also embedded at the top of the launcher as buttons.
By taking center stage with Home, Facebook is trying to become the default application for users who need to complete basic tasks, such as sharing photos or sending messages to friends. Based on Facebook's data, the average mobile user interacts with the social network about a dozen times a day-but users check their phones' cover screens about a hundred times or more over the course of a day. The more minutes a user spends digesting and sharing content on Facebook, the more opportunities the company has to push ads to that user. The company said it is planning to eventually display ads in the so-called "cover feed," but it is still working on that strategy.
Facebook's announcement, which was widely expected, is the latest outgrowth of its yearslong effort to move its franchise from the Web to mobile devices. While the company had explored issues related to hardware design, people close to the company have said, Mr. Zuckerberg reiterated Thursday that developing smartphones would limit Facebook compared with working with a broad number of hardware partners. Creating an actual Facebook-branded phone, he said, might net the company 10 or 20 million users, an insufficient amount for a social network of more than one billion. The device shown at the event, the HTC First, comes preloaded with Home and was described as offering a deeper integration with Facebook's software. It will be available on April 12 for purchase from AT&T Inc., priced at $99.99. Wall Street Journal
The primary election season for the 2016 presidential cycle may be three years away but we've already noticed one name missing from the pack of would-be contenders in several polls. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who finished second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican primaries, is not getting much pollster attention. That stood out to us because Romney finished second in the 2008 Republican primaries to U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who finished second in 2000 to former Texas Gov. George W. Bush. McCain and Romney went on to win the GOP nomination for president in their next attempts.
So Santorum's next in line and should be part of the 2016 pack of GOP contenders, right? John Brabender, a senior Santorum strategist, shrugs off the lack of respect, saying pollsters and the media get distracted by what he calls the "shiny new toy theory." To explain, Brabender notes that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and radio host Herman Cain all enjoyed brief success and plenty of attention in 2012 before flaming out.
Brabender puts the odds of Santorum running for president at "better than 50/50 for sure." Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania for two Senate terms and now lives in Virginia, told Newsmax.com on Wednesday that he is "certainly" open to another White House bid. "I'm making no commitments at this point, but we're not doing anything inconsistent with running in 2016," Santorum said. Brabender notes that Santorum will be in Iowa twice this month to speak to fund-raisers for religious groups. Santorum narrowly won the 2012 Iowa caucus, one of his 11 primary victories that year. "Within the Republican Party, there has been this historic tradition that the person who comes in second generally does well and wins the nomination the next time," Brabender said, brushing aside the attention other potential GOP stars are now getting. "It really matters who's standing at the end, not the beginning."
Millionaire business executive Tom Knox says he won't run for Pennsylvania governor and is instead considering another bid for Philadelphia mayor. Knox said in a statement Thursday he has decided not to run for governor. In recent weeks, other Democrats have been announcing plans to challenge Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in his expected 2014 re-election bid. But Knox says he's instead "seriously considering" running for mayor of Philadelphia in 2015. He lost to now-Mayor Michael Nutter in a five-way Democratic primary in May 2007. He had campaigned for governor in 2010, but withdrew before the primary. Nutter was re-elected to a second term in 2011 and cannot run again. Knox says he plans a formal announcement of his plans in the near future. Philadelphia Daily News, Associated Press
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