Microsoft Tells Facebook It Already Made A People-First Phone, Calling The Whole Concept Into Question

Microsoft is maybe a little jealous of the spotlight shone on Facebook yesterday for its Facebook Home announcement. In a new blog post today, Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft used some mild snark and mostly gentle prodding to complain about how his company had already done what Facebook was trying to do on smartphones, which sadly only reinforces the fact that no one had noticed.

The post is mostly a series of questions, which basically suggest that Facebook was asking the same ones when it came up with Facebook Home, but which Microsoft had already answered two years ago with the initial release of Windows Phone 7.5, where it actually employed the tagline “Put people first.”

Shaw glibly says that he checked the calendar to determine whether or not it was somehow still 2011, and obliquely compared the FB Home announcement to an April Fools’ joke, but the real punchline is in how a so-called “people-” centric approach to mobile has worked so far, and both Microsoft and Facebook end up looking the worse for it.

The whole argument of the post is based on the idea that Facebook Home merely accomplishes what Windows Phone already offers, but in a way that requires fewer sacrifices. Facebook Home is “another skin built around another metaphor, on top of what is already a custom variant of the OS,” Shaw argues, and to some extend he’s right. Windows Phone offers a lot of features taken from Facebook Home, baked right into the stock, native OS, including unified messaging and social feeds that put friend social activity front-and-center.

The problem is, Windows Phone hasn’t yet made a significant dent in the smartphone market, as you can tell from the most recent U.S. comScore numbers. Buyers so far haven’t embraced a “people-first” vision of a smartphone platform, at least as espoused by Microsoft. And in my own experience using a Nokia 920, I found that the social aspects didn’t really draw me in or make me feel any more socially engaged – surfacing social updates just reminded me how largely disconnected I actually am from the majority of people in my Facebook stream, in fact.

Microsoft may have wanted to spark consumer interest by piggy-backing on the high profile of yesterday’s Facebook Home announcement, but the net effect was actually to just leave me more skeptical about Facebook’s attempt to provide a similar experience. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about a people-first approach replacing an app-centric model, but if Windows Phone is the only example we have to go on so far of how that turns out, then the prognosis for Facebook Home isn’t all that good.