Facebook poaches Apple engineers to 'build smartphone': report

Facebook poaches Apple engineers to 'build smartphone': report

Summary: Will Facebook be 'third-time lucky' in its reported smartphone development? Hiring top talent in smartphone and mobile engineering may bring the dream a little closer.

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Facebook may be a prominent brand in the social media industry, but does it have what it takes to make its presence known as a strong competitor in mobile technology?

The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, has reported that talks of Facebook releasing its own smartphone model and OS may be more than previous rumours have suggested.

The tip-offs include current Facebook employees and engineers that have been headhunted from other major developers -- including Apple Inc. The development of a 'Facebook smartphone' is allegedly well underway, and the social media giant hopes to launch its creation by the end of the year.

According to the report, Facebook has "already hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad".

The sources, both employees and and those briefed on the plans, provided information on the basis of anonymity.

An engineer who previously worked at Apple and had a hand in the development of its popular iPhone stated that in a meeting with Facebook's chief executive, he was inundated with in-depth questions about smartphone development:

"It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity. Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used."

This is apparently the third time Facebook has attempted to break into this niche market of hardware development, the latest report appearing on the heels of Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion -- which may indicate that the search engine giant is also considering a move into mobile technology.

In 2010, it was reported by TechCrunch that Facebook was working on a smartphone. This news evaporated quickly after the difficulties of shifting from software to hardware development became obvious. Last year, a second round of reports indicated that Facebook and HTC were collaborating on a smartphone project, codenamed "Buffy", which may still be under development.

As previously reported, the company is not looking to develop a handset dedicated only to social networking -- and therefore it will not allow any manufacturer to call potential future devices 'Facebook phones.

One Facebook employee said anonymously that Zuckerburg 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.".

Considering that Zuckerburg is "worried" about being left in the dust, it stands to reason the software company may try its hand at building a customized platform. However, breaking into a hardware market already dominated by Apple and Samsung, and mobile platforms the kingdom of Apple and Android, this will be no easy task.

If the move is purely because Facebook needs new revenue streams, this may not bode well for the long-term future of such a project.

When asked about the latest 'Facebook phone' rumour, the company did not confirm or deny these plans. Instead, it pointed to a previous statement that said, "We're working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers."

Image credit: CNET

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6 comments
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  • Intellectual Property

    I would be very surprised if these former Apple employees were not bound by some non-disclosure agreement they signed when they were hired by Apple. If Facebook is willing to fight Apple for infringing on IP, well then, let the wars begin.
    jpclyons
    • Not only that ....

      ... is Facebook so ignorant that it thinks that their brand can sell smartphones?

      How many "Droid" phones we have that are heavily marketed as Facebook phones that aren't selling at all? Not even ignorant teens addicted to Facebook want a phone from a company who's primary business is built around stealing personal information from a person.
      wackoae
      • Nobody is ever happy...

        ...with the state of affairs of their company. Making multiple millions, or even multiple billions...Not good enough!!

        Its admirable that companies are always looking for ways to increase their profitability, bring in new revenue sources etc., but, it can quickly get ludicrous.

        The first state of affairs for any company should be making their lead product as good as it can be. The problem is, every time a company gets into the position Facebook is in, they seem to say "we are the clear, overwhelming leader in this area, time to let that rest on the back burner while we dive into something new to bring even more profits".

        Lovely idea if your lead product is approaching perfection, not such a good idea if your company has flaws that are known and complained about. Its a clear indication that the public will be ready for the next new thing and you may actually lose some ground on your lead product while potentially failing on your new venture, cash being siphoned off from two directions at once.

        Its a world famous problem in business. It always seems to most remarkably hit those who's significant lead in some area lets them fall into a sense of complacency where they believe both that; one, their not going to have any significant competition to their lead product because they are just so damn good, and two, they are so damn good they have a better then reasonable prospect of entering a new area and being successful in that as well. Sometimes both are significantly enough wrong...it hurts.
        Cayble
      • Did you guys see the article which suggested RIMM may be the one that

        Did you guys see the article which suggested RIMM may be the one that
        samdoodle less than a minute ago .Facebook buys? Dont know if this is true (prob all speculation) but how would it work (guess it gives a platform for facebook to go from including some patents and manufacturing capability)?

        What wouild the alternative be? Potentially teaming up with Android or Apple?

        re: the litigation mentioned above. What happens if Yahoo or Google buys the KISS patents from Kodak and litigates against Facebook? .
        samdoodle
  • Use WebOS or MeeGo

    nt
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Did you guys see the article which suggested RIMM may be the one that

    Facebook buys? Dont know if this is true (prob all speculation) but how would it work (guess it gives a platform for facebook to go from including some patents and manufacturing capability)?

    What wouild the alternative be? Potentially teaming up with Android or Apple?

    re: the litigation mentioned above. What happens if Yahoo or Google buys the KISS patents from Kodak and litigates against Facebook?
    samdoodle