May 28, 2012
Facebook Could Really Make A Smartphone This Time
Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com
Make no mistake, Facebook wants to take over the world. Of course, so does Apple and Google, though Facebook may be more desperate and hungry to make it happen, what with their disappointing recent IPO and declining revenue streams.
As noted in their IPO filings to the SEC, Facebook has admitted a weakness when it comes to mobile computing, which is arguably the future of computing as we know it. So, to address these issues, Facebook has been steadily updating their mobile app, acquiring some very popular mobile players and even releasing their own version of mobile apps dedicated to doing the things you already do on Facebook, such as chatting and photo sharing. They´ve even announced a new app store with a social twist, recommending new apps based on what your friends are using. Facebook wants to be everywhere and have their fingers in as many pockets as they can.
But can they do mobile so well as to brand their own phone?
Recent movements and talent acquisitions suggest this may be their next big move, according to headlines from this weekend.
According to the New York Times, several Facebook employees, as well as Apple and Google employees have been confronted by Facebook recruiters, and have said the social networking site plans to release its very own phone by next year.
According to the NY Times, the company has already hired several Apple employees who previously worked on the iconic and popular iPhone and iPad.
In 2010, rumors began to circulate about a Facebook smartphone, though it was later revealed that the plans fell apart. Then, last year All Things D issued a series of reports about Facebook´s new plans to release a smartphone, code named “Buffy” which would run a modified version of Android. According to All Things D, Facebook has struck up a partnership with HTC to manufacture the Buffy phones, though neither Facebook nor HTC acknowledged these rumors at the time.
According to the NY Times, these new talent acquisitions are meant to boost the hardware side of project Buffy.
In fact, one former Apple engineer who worked on the iPhone told the NY Times he had met directly with Zuck himself. According to this unnamed source, Mr. Zuckerberg had plenty of questions for him about the inner workings of the smartphone, including what kind of chips were used and other in-depth details. Another unnamed former Apple engineer said a Facebook recruiter confirmed their hardware plans. The NY Times asked Facebook for a comment on these new murmurings, and rather than issue a statement, they instead pointed to the comment they gave All Things D last year:
“We´re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.”
Another unnamed Facebook employee told the NY Times, “Mark is worried that if he doesn´t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms.”
While it will be interesting to see what Facebook will do with their hardware, should they be able to pull it off, it certainly won´t be the first time a software-exclusive company has gone on to build hardware. However, as new claims have surfaced about Facebook´s push into third party advertising, the company may have to create something fantastic to persuade people to give up their physical location to a company who has had numerous privacy stumbles in their past.