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Facebook Announces Home: The Web Yawns, Fans Rejoice!

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For quite some time now the general public has been reading rumors on the interwebz about a secret project from Facebook… a Facebook phone. And, for quite some time the whole thing remained firmly planted in the realm of "vaporware." Well, I just sat and watched a press conference that will have the web on fire with lovers and haters of what Mark Zuckerberg and company are calling Facebook Home. And this guy is impressed!

Facebook Home is really just a super-powered widget, launcher, but for the majority of users it's so much more. For the geek elite and Technorati, there will be "mehs" but for the average user who buys a phone doesn't know about the wealth of launchers and ROMs out there in the ether already, Facebook Home may just become the new way they interact with their phone, apps and contacts. Zuckerberg stood before an audience and told them that Home seeks to change the paradigm of smartphone interaction from being task oriented, to people oriented and Home attempts to accomplish this with the following features: Cover Feed, Chat Heads & Messenger and App Launcher.

From FacebookHome.com:

Cover Feed- As soon as you turn on your phone or press the home button, you see a stream of posts from News Feed. Cover feed puts the spotlight on whatever friends are sharing now—photos, status updates, links and more. Notifications about calls, events, Facebook updates and other apps appear on your home screen and stick around until you need them.¹ Profile pictures and app icons make it easy to see what's what. Tap the stuff you're into, swipe away the stuff you're not.

Chat Heads & Messenger- Send and receive texts and Facebook messages in one place. Profile pictures make your group chats and one-on-one time more personal. Jump in and out of conversations while you do other things, like watch videos or browse the web. Drag chat heads where you want them.

App Launcher- You start with a couple of screens: an app launcher with the essentials, and a list of all your apps. Drag your favorites to your app launcher so you can quickly get to what you need. Add more screens as you need them.

Those are the features as described on Facebook's new product page for Home. I really like the Chat Heads feature and think it's the most compelling of those announced today. Think of these as floating notification avatars which pop up in correlation to the person messaging you. Well played Mr. Zuckerberg. Well played. Tech talk aside, I think this looks like a hit for the service, with one caveat… the young people who drove early adoption of Facebook appear to be losing interest according to many reports. Anecdotally, my own teens asked me about other services about a year ago because so many of their own friends were sick of the "parentals" being on and were taking up residence elsewhere- Tumblr, I'm looking at youThe other issue is that, apparently, not all of the features will work across all Android handsets but for parity HTC and AT&T sought to solve that concern by announcing the HTC First at the press conference. On April 12th, the same day Home will be available in Google's Play store, the HTC First will be available on AT&T's network for $99.99 on a two year contract. The First will be designed around Home, fully implementing all of the new features and notifications. My main concern with this device though is whether or not it will be just another craptastic mid-range Android handset. Historically, mid-range Androids have been hit or miss, with a lot of misses by my count. There are some that have been standouts and hopefully this is one, but I will definitely let you know once we get our hands on one for review! iOS fanboys and girls, no love for you at this time, this is an Android only party.

My own personal thoughts on the widget/launcher? You will also find me firmly in the "meh" camp. Though impressive overall, I don't personally want Facebook taking over my phone. I enjoy having my apps silo'd because each serves a different purpose and I use my phone for so much more than just communicating with people. I enjoy the availability of multiple "home screens" on my Android phone because I can group the apps that work together the way I want and set up the widgets that work with my uses to be as large as I want on that particular screen. That works for me. But as I've watched my own children interact with their smartphones, I've seen them operate on a very different use case. For them it is about text messaging and sharing (and even oversharing, which we've talked about) and I can see them being very enthusiastic about this application layer called Facebook Home. That is, if they were still as interested in Facebook as they were a year or two ago.

For more information about Facebook Home or to pre-order the HTC One from AT&T Wireless, check out this link. For AT&T and HTCs full release- it's the same on both of their sties, you can check out the link here.

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