It's a question almost as old as Facebook itself: Will the world's biggest social network , which became a multibillion-dollar publicly held concern without selling anything tangible, eventually branch out into hardware: Namely, a branded phone?
The question becomes more salient as the Menlo Park, Calif.-based corporation searches for new ways to generate income -- other than it's traditional model of selling ads and partnering with apps -- to attract investors. Its performance on the NASDAQ so far has been unimpressive, closing on Tuesday about $10 less than its initial public offering price of $38.
Apple Engineers 'Like' It
It also seems more in the realm of possibility since tech companies are increasingly working to consolidate Web presence and mobile devices: Amazon.com has its Kindle, while Google has its Android phones and tablets and now owns Motorola Mobility, to make its own phones.
Now, employees of Facebook as well as engineers who have been sought out by the company tell The New York Times that the company will finally launch a smartphone within the next year. In a sign that the Mark Zuckerberg-founded company is pulling out all the stops, it has hired former engineers from Apple, the Times said, including six who worked on the iPhone and one who worked on the iPad. The specifics seem to give the rumor new credibility.
Facebook did not confirm or deny the report, which said the smartphone project began in 2010 and is called Buffy.
"We're working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers," the company told the Times, reiterating a statement from from last year in response to a report about the smartphone project.
That's exactly what Facebook needs to do to keep from eventually fizzing out as another dotcom fad, even after its spectacular growth to 900 million users, analysts say. The question is, can the company break into a market already dominated by Google's Android and Apple's iOS?
More than Assembling Parts
"I think it will be challenging for Facebook to generate the broad developer support they will need to build out a full apps and services ecosystem beyond social networking ," said consumer devices expert Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. "That doesn't mean that Facebook won't do it, just that building a phone is a much bigger undertaking than assembling the hardware and integrating Facebook onto it."
Facebook isn't alone in facing such questions, he said. Amazon and others need to determine "whether it makes more sense to control your own platform at the cost of competing with Apple, Google, and Microsoft or whether it would be better to build on top of their momentum with an app and limited service integration."
A recent poll by a British site, MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, of 1,000 people found that 75 percent said it would be a good idea for Facebook to have its own phone, the site reported.
Posted: 2012-05-29 @ 5:00pm PT
They had to find some way to waste all that IPO money.