Social Media Phones It In With A Facebook Mobile Device?
Giants of the Internet have gravitated to mobile devices over the years as a conduit to sell apps and advertising. Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platforms have proved successful and compete aggressively for marketshare. So it's somewhat inevitable to believe that a social network with a built-in market of 500+ million users would consider jumping into to the fray to slice off its own piece of the action.
According to a TechCrunch report, and rumors that Michael Arrington has picked up on, Facebook is building software for its own smartphone and working with a third party to actually build the hardware - which is exactly what Apple and Google have already done. "Specifically, Facebook wants to integrate deeply into the contacts list and the other core functions of the phone - it can only do that if it controls the operating system," notes Arrington.
Arrington has been known to release speculative reports like this in the past. Most recently he noted that he was privy to inside information that staff members at Facebook circuitously obtained proprietary documents about Google's covert development of yet another social network.
Arrington even goes as far as to "out" two Facebook employees with "deep operating experience" that are assigned to the project. Both Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos "are said to be secretly working on the development, which is yet unknown even to most of the Facebook staff.
The catalyst for Mark Zuckerberg to develop his own phone aside from the fact this venture could prove to be a 'cash cow' might have been the result of Hewitt's 'not so warm and fuzzy' feelings about Apple. As the man behind the immensely popular Facebook application for iPhone, Hewitt quit the app project based on what he described as Apple's "tyrannical" App Store policies. In November of last year, he was quoted in another TechCrunch article noting his displeasure with the company.
Arrington believes Papakipos is the likely candidate to assist Hewitt in developing the mobile phone operating system for Facebook because of his background. He like, a number of Facebook's recent hires came from Google and was responsible for some of the work that went into its Chrome operating system launch.
Arrington is not privy to any of the specs of the alleged Facebook phone, but suspects it will come in price-wise at the lower end ("I'd expect a model at a less than $50 price.") and would be fully integrated with one's Facebook account where phone numbers would not be needed to reach someone's Facebook contacts, and billing would be handled through Facebook Credits, the network's new monetary system.
A Facebook user would be able to sync his dedicated events calendar to the device in addition to friend's birthdays. Social games could be integrated into the operating system - allowing Facebook and Zynga to expand their lucrative gaming reach - beyond users' desktops.
So readers, do you think a Facebook smartphone is in the cards? And if so, would have it have enough appeal to break up the Apple/Google juggernaut hold on the smartphone market? With 500+ potential buyers, it's got a fighting chance of phoning it in? No?
UPDATE: CNET - 9/19/10 - Several hours after posting this story, Facebook apparently made a statement denying that they were developing an OS for their own phone.
Facebook says Arrington got the story wrong: "Facebook is not building a phone," Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin told CNET today. "Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this"