Should Google Be Worried About Facebook’s Foray Into Mobile?

The rivalry between Facebook and Google has been heating up as Facebook recently launched M, a virtual assistant and Facebook’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana (you get one James Bond joke). Facebook pulled no punches with the announcement; VP of messaging products David Marcus stated that M can perform tasks that none of the other virtual assistants can, saying that in addition to using artificial intelligence, M is powered by actual people.

Facebook’s stated goal is to make Messenger the market leader in mobile discovery. Google has long controlled desktop search, and Google and Apple both control a significant amount of market share when it comes to mobile searching. I myself tend to rely on Google apps to find what I need on my Android.¬†This is part of a trend by Facebook getting very aggressive with going after mobile search. The question posited by a number of tech journalists was an expected one: Should Google be worried?

To reiterate my answer when somebody asked, it’s too early to be worried.¬†Concerned? That’s a different story. Marketing 101 is that you never ignore a potential threat, especially from a company with the immense user base and resources of Facebook.

That said, Facebook’s massive install base doesn’t guarantee that M will take off or become a market leader. Facebook’s massive audience hasn’t always translated into usage for its new products long term; they figured that out when Slingshot failed to unseat SnapChat as the king of ephimeral messaging. The trick has often been situational use and how the new product compliments Facebook’s existing functionality. Facebook Places took off and served to hurt Foursquare’s market share because it was easy to use, it was in line with Facebook users were already doing and it wasn’t trying to be something that Facebook wasn’t.

Facebook Places also wasn’t a reaction in order to compete with a particular product. Slingshot, by comparison, was an awkward attempt at preventing SnapChat from gaining its dominant market share. M doesn’t seem to have the product envy that Slingshot did and it seems like a far better designed and researched product, but again, that doesn’t necessarily translate into usage.

So to reiterate: Worried, no. Concerned, definitely.