Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Pat Romanski, Larry Alton, Elizabeth White, Astadia CloudGPS, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Agile Computing, Java IoT, Mobile IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, @BigDataExpo

Agile Computing: Article

Facebook Plays Short and Long Game with WhatsApp and Oculus Rift | Part 1

Takes on Google and Mobile

When Facebook decided to invest a cool $19 billion ($16 billion upfront) for messaging app WhatsApp the entire world was bound to take notice. Telecommunications types, in particular, were keen to understand how this latest move would impact them as mobile operators have been feeling the heat from over the top (OTT) players like Google and Facebook for years. (To put this $19 billion in perspective, AT&T, one of the world's largest telecom carriers, invests about $20 billion in networks and spectrum in an entire year.) Shortly thereafter, in another surprise move and with the dust not quite settled on WhatsApp, Facebook picked up virtual reality startup Oculus Rift for $2 billion. This left many in the industry wondering what exactly was going on. While WhatsApp and Facebook's previous acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion were in keeping with its social network roots, Oculus Rift was in the video game industry and had yet to release a product. This led many to ask: What was Zuckerberg thinking? But if you dig deeper, these acquisitions are intertwined and central to Facebook's short and long term play to develop the next-generation communications platform. With WhatsApp and Oculus Rift, Facebook takes on Google and mobile providers in the race to do just that.

Let's start with WhatsApp. Messaging is one of the top activities on smartphones and these apps are increasingly viewed as social networks. WhatsApp is already an international phenomenon, even if it has not made as much of a statement in the U.S. just yet. In some markets, WhatsApp generates almost as much messaging traffic as all traditional carriers combined. Instead of people using carrier text and voice messaging at cents per message, WhatsApp users consume a few bytes of their data plan for close to zero, and send WhatsApp $1 a year. That's correct: WhatsApp charges nothing for the first year of service and then a mere $1 per user per year. That's not much to a phone company, but nice work for an app company getting close to half a billion users. This leads phone companies to pine after all that revenue they're losing. As if that's not enough, WhatsApp will add a voice calling service to its offering. With this capability, WhatsApp Facebook challenges telcos not only on mobile messaging but also for their bread and butter business: phone calls.

Facebook's entire history is all about getting more and more people to sign up and WhatsApp currently boasts more than 450 million active monthly users. The rapid rise of WhatsApp's user-base was largely due to the low cost and its commitment to not collect user data for advertising revenue, despite users providing detailed personal information to the company, including private texts to friends. If these qualities remain intact, the combined user base of both networks will be truly massive.

Zuckerberg assured the world that acquiring WhatsApp was not simply about money, but rather that it was in tune with his vision that everyone in the world should be connected. He has also stated that mobile operators should give away Internet access in developing nations. Who is going to argue against the idea that communications (in the broadest sense) has delivered social and economic benefits to people in affluent countries? If we expand opportunities to communicate by providing cheap and effective tools, then people and economies benefit, and that's a good thing. However, with free Internet access and almost free WhatsApp voice calling, Facebook can offer nearly what carriers can offer and all those customers will in reality have more disposable income to pay bigger subscriptions and respond to ads. This will mean Facebook gets richer, even as Zuckerberg implied that this would be a happy coincidence, and not the fundamental reason for the acquisition. But it's important to remember that mobile operators stand between Facebook and its customers and rallying public opinion behind a noble cause is good for Facebook and makes the carriers look greedy for not supporting the cause.

WhatsApp is obviously an important element of Facebook's strategy and the company is committed to honoring the app's principles: cheap, reliable, easy to use, no ads and preserves privacy. Just like Google, Facebook is increasingly faced with the harsh reality that many people simply don't like or trust its platform. Buying companies like WhatsApp and Oculus Rift and giving them the freedom to stick to their core roots is an important component to growing the all-important subscriber base and restoring the value and "cool" factor of Facebook long term. Rather than trying to integrate acquisitions into the mother ship, Facebook and Google (e.g., Nest acquisition) are taking a similar approach by putting their significant marketing and development resources behind the acquired companies while letting them continue to innovate autonomously.

The autonomous component is a key strategy. Facebook's internal innovations within its original social networking platform (Facebook Platform and Facebook Messenger for PCs) have not been successful. So, just like corporate giants in other industries, Facebook needed fresh infusion from the outside. For example, while Snapchat and Pinterest have been innovating in social media, Facebook bought its way in with the Instagram purchase in 2012. Facebook's "me too," Snapchat look alike app called Poke - an internal endeavor - again didn't make it off the ground. And it's not just Facebook. Google's list of abandoned projects has its own Wikipedia page that is worth a read. However, when you compare these two companies' success rates in innovation to other big companies (e.g. AT&T, GE, Ford, Nokia) they all have lists of failures alongside their successes that keep them in business. We expect Google and Facebook to be different because they are still relatively new, but now they are big and like any large corporation are just as prone to messing up big projects. Following in the path of corporate giants that came before them, buying innovative small companies is critical to their long-term strategy and relevance.

When it comes to these companies' actual wins, some might argue, for example that the Android OS and Google Web Services are only successful because they have been given way to boost Google's real business - Google search and Web ads - which are still responsible for the bulk of Google's revenue. This is a similar theme for Facebook. Both companies are riding the Web advertising wave, but now to stay on top in that field they need to remain the go-to players for the next-generation communications/advertising platform: augmented reality provided by Google Glass and Virtual Reality provided by Oculus Rift (Facebook). However it is important to note that advertising revenue has become, for these companies, not the primary goal, but rather a means to an end. Google's actions suggest that the company has a bigger picture in mind, and Zuckerberg wants to build a lasting place in history for himself and Facebook. Both companies are entering these new modified-reality markets to ensure they have a growing subscriber base and their advertising revenue is protected well into the future to give them the funds they need to do what they want in their endeavors. But that's where the similarities come to a grinding halt.

I'll get into the differences in my next blog. Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don't miss it.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, will discuss how data centers of the future will be managed, how th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, will introduce two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a mu...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SourceForge has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SourceForge is the largest, most trusted destination for Open Source Software development, collaboration, discovery and download on the web serving over 32 million viewers, 150 million downloads and over 460,000 active development projects each and every month.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Daiya Industry specializes in orthotic support systems and assistive devices with pneumatic artificial muscles in order to contribute to an extended healthy life expectancy. For more information, please visit https://www.daiyak...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
Elon Musk is among the notable industry figures who worries about the power of AI to destroy rather than help society. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, embraces all that is going on. AI is most powerful when deployed across the vast networks being built for Internets of Things in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, healthcare, government and other sectors. Is AI transforming IoT for the good or the bad? Do we need to worry about its potential destructive power? Or will we...