The war for your home screen

Internet companies are fighting for our attention. And today our attention is on the home screen of our phone.

Our home screen is a very limited real estate where we put our favorite apps. There aren't so many apps worth of that space. Most of you have an icon for your calendar, contacts/messages, emails, camera/photos, music, maps, notes and a combination of social interactions apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare or SnapChat.

Those are by far the most used apps. That's where you put most of your attention and as a result, that's where the Internet giants wants to be.

Apple has of course the edge here since they got to choose what are the apps installed by default on your home screen. It wouldn't surprise me if the European Commission eventually sues Apple for abuse of dominant position in the same way that they sued Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows.

Google is the king of accessing public content. They are already the king of all non iOS devices thanks to Android. And they are well on their way to conquer our iOS home screen with Maps, Gmail, Hangouts and Chrome for mobile. I wish they would open Mobile Chrome to extensions. Expect a Google Calendar iOS app from them soon.

Facebook is focused on relationships and accessing content through those relations. Their Facebook Home initiative has been a disaster. They are now switching gears and start offering more and more single purpose apps such as Camera, Messenger and very recently Paper. They acquired Instagram which is in a way their YouTube. I would expect them to also get in the Calendar space.

Yahoo is a media company. They have information and they also want their piece of your home screen. They recently improved their Weather, Sports and News apps. They used to be big with Yahoo Finance and Yahoo News, that's 2 spots that they could claim if they step up their game. I would focus on those if I were them.

What does that mean for startups?

I think there will be a lot of acquisitions in the space to accelerate that strategy. Yahoo comes with such an engineering deficit that they had to do a lot of acqui-hires in the mobile space to rebuild a team in 2013. But it's time for them and others to acquire products to grab pixels on our home screen at a faster pace.

Calendar is an obvious app that is one everyone home screen and only Apple own an app there. There has been some new startups in that space last year such as Sunrise or Fantastical. Facebook needs this and should buy one of them. I don't want to open Facebook and then go to Events. I want one Calendar app. Google could buy one of them too but they are most likely already building a Google Calendar for mobile.

News reader Yahoo or Google should buy Pocket. It's the app to read news offline. They have a fairly big user base and it's in a way what Google Current should have been. So this could be a good acquisition, especially given the recent release of FB Paper. They could also snap Flipboard but given the amount of money they raised, they might be too big to digest. Also, Google has already a foot in Pocket with their Google Venture investment. The other big player in the space is Instapaper that Marco Arment recently sold to Betaworks.

Note taking Google introduced Keep last year to compete in that space but that isn't going anywhere. They should just buy Evernote. There is also SimpleNote but they are already owned by Automattic (Wordpress), so very unlikely they would sell.

Messaging is a big one with apps that have grown tremendously last year (Snapchat, WhatsApp). They've grown so much so quickly that they became out of reach even for the likes of Facebook and Google (Snapchat walked away from a $3B offer from Facebook).

Thanks to Don Loeb for reviewing this post.

Xavier Damman

About the author

I'm Xavier Damman. I'm an engineer in computer science and an entrepreneur. I'm passionate about the digital renaissance. I like to think about the future of media (I cofounded Storify), organizations and democracy (I'm now working on Open Collective). In my spare time, I like to hack and talk. You can follow me on Twitter @xdamman.