Any broadening of Facebook's appeal on mobile devices would have to be broad-based, and the Android launcher approach allows it to target a huge installed base of hundreds of millions of Android users, which will be a large chunk of Facebook's total user base of more than a billion people.
To users, the sell here will be making it easier to share information, photos and so on with friends. But to Facebook, this is about becoming more deeply embedded in the operating system on mobile devices, and creating a broader platform.
Since Facebook doesn't make an operating system for mobile devices, this is the next best thing. It will allow Facebook to track more of a user's behavior on devices, and present more opportunities to serve up advertising, which is Facebook's main business model.
And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook's objectives and users' are once again in conflict. Users don't want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both.
This is a great experiment for Facebook - it's much lower risk than developing a phone or an operating system of its own, and if it turns out not to be successful, there will be little risk or loss to Facebook. If it does turn out to be successful, Facebook can build on the model further and increase the value provided in the application over time. The biggest challenge will be that it can't replicate this experience on iOS, Windows Phone or BlackBerry, the three other main platforms.
For carriers, the risk is that this puts Facebook's communication services front and center on the device, making them easier to use and more integrated with the core experience on the device. This should make them easier to use than when they're buried in an app, and should accelerate the shift from carrier services to over the top services. It should be a big boost to Facebook Messenger and the associated voice and video services.
Ovum forecasts that social messaging cannibalization of SMS revenues will grow from $32.6 billion (€25 billion) in 2013 to over $86.0 billion in 2020.
Jan Dawson is chief telecoms analyst at Ovum. For more information, visitwww.ovum.com