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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