Facebook brought a recently rumored Android overlay to life today, the Facebook Home, along with the first handset to carry it, the appropriately named HTC First.

Rather than making its own handset or forking Android to create an outright Facebook operating system, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that as a Google Play download that'll eventually be made available to most Android devices, Home can reach the maximum number of users.

"Our community has more than 1 billion people in it," he said. "A really good phone would only get to one or 2 percent of that."

That's nice rhetoric, but the elephant in the Facebook press conference room was, "What about Apple?"

Zuck answers

Again and again, Zuckerberg highlighted what he called the openness of Android, a feature that ultimately allowed Facebook to develop the Home overlay to fit on top of the operating system. He played the PR game, but his message about why Facebook went after Android and snubbed Apple's iOS was clear:

"We have a great relationship with Apple, and the way you work on all these operating systems is pretty different," Zuckerberg hemmed during a post-conference Q&A.

He did, however, get to the meat of the matter: "Apple is a very controlled environment. The good news is we have this long, good relationship with Apple. We are integrated into the operating system, we have an active dialogue to do more with them, but ultimately anything that happens with Apple is through partnership with them.

"Google is aware of what we're doing, we've talked with them about this, but fundamentally Android is just a more open system, so we don't have to work directly with them in order to build an experience like this or even go deeper than what we're talking about today.

"They've designed Android from the ground up to support deep integration like this."

In other words, Apple's closed and controlling environment wasn't where Facebook wanted to develop Home.

Apple, it would seem from Zuckerberg's comments, would have had its fingerprints all over Home, slowing Facebook's overlay roll and potentially taking the project far from the vision the FB team had when it set out to build this house of apps.

Perhaps there's an iHome in development already, but clearly Zuck and crew wanted to get Facebook Home out to the masses ASAP the way it wanted it to be done, and Android was the platform that allowed them to do it.