Facebook Poking Around Mobile Device


facebook_small.jpgADOTAS – In suggesting that Facebook the site will fade while its features become core components of the web, Brandt Dainow wrote on Adotas, “Facebook will eventually morph into a set of services which will be plugged into other websites, into browsers and into the operating system.”

But why settle for being part of the operating system when you could be the operating system? Facebook has made it clear that it wants to be the portal to the Internet, the go-to source for connectivity and sharing, so why not make a presence on the mobile front, especially as it tries to be more competitive with Google?

On Sunday Michael Arrington of TechCrunch got the scoop that Facebook is building a mobile operating system and contracting a third party to build the software. Reportedly heading up the project are Facebook all-stars Joe Hewitt, who helped develop Mozilla’s Firefox browser, and Matthew Papakipos, who was leading the Chrome OS project before departing Google.

Of course Facebook immediately denied that it wasn’t working on a phone — which, if history is to be trusted, is a confirmation.

“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,” Facebook Spokesperson Jamie Schopflin told Mashable. “The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a ‘Facebook Phone’ because that’s such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do.”

In addition, tech blogger Robert Scoble’s chats with high-level Facebook people convinced him the phone idea is all hooey. An anonymous Facebook rep told him that the company’s “strategy is to integrate and make all phones social, not build any specific device or integration.”

But Dan Frommer, who heard the same Facebook phone rumors as Arrington, had a source tell him Facebook is working off of Android’s software, which he says makes sense considering that the social network whisked away Android team leader Erick Tseng to head up its mobile phone products division. Google has been desperately trying to hold onto key employees as it quietly builds up its own social network.

Frommer argues building an OS is a logical step as Facebook in the mobile world must transform from a service into a platform.

“Facebook is increasingly competitive with Google and Apple, which both have their own phone platforms, and if Facebook is going to be one of the titans of the Internet going forward, it only makes sense to build a phone platform,” Frommer wrote.

But if recent events have taught us anything, Facebook’s phone must be more than a glorified portal to the social network. Microsoft’s social networking phone Kin was an absolute failure not just because it was overly priced, but wasn’t really a smartphone — there were no apps, which have become absolutely essential.

It will also be interesting to see what kind of advertising model would be available on the platform, as Facebook’s social network is certainly a walled garden — one that makes Apple’s mobile ad platform look like a public park. However, companies like Ad.ly are finding ways to get in the stream.

Sean Percival, MySpace vice president of online marketing and keeper of the most luscious locks in Silicon Valley, actually got a sneak peek at the Facebook phone:



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