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Would You Buy A Facebook Phone?


The New York Times has reported that Facebook is once again trying to build its own smartphone. The article came over the holiday weekend and is full of super secret, hush-hush rumblings from people inside of Facebook who fear for their jobs if they were labeled a mole. Oh the intrigue!

The NYT reports

Employees of Facebook and several engineers who have been sought out by recruiters there, as well as people briefed on Facebook’s plans, say the company hopes to release its own smartphone by next year. These people spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their employment or relationships with Facebook.

The company 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 employees and those briefed on the plans said.

If there is any truth in this then all the talk of Google being off target with their purchase of Motorola could be dwarfed by Facebook trying to build its own smartphone on its own. Of course, one might think that the company is feeling pretty confident that it could do most anything after its IPO (no matter how bungled it was). But making smartphones requires a lot of, well, smarts that Facebook doesn’t currently have. That’s apparently not stopping Mark Zuckerberg from trying to get at it though.

One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he had met with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who then peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones. It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used, he said. Another former Apple hardware engineer was recruited by a Facebook executive and was told about the company’s hardware explorations.

If Facebook is indeed serious about this it begs the question, who would buy it? I am a bit stumped on this one. I know I certainly wouldn’t but I am not a typical Facebook user. Are people that tied up in their Facebook life that they think having a phone that is centered on the service is a necessity? I get the need for an iPhone for its simplicity and “it just works” reputation and I get the need of a Google integrated phone like a Samsung Nexus because Google touches on many different areas of a Google user’s life (Gmail, docs, calendar etc, etc) but a Facebook phone? Maybe someone can help me see how this is a good idea? To me it just sounds like an act of corporate hubris that may signal bigger problems at Facebook than any of us have considered.

But let’s not forget the classic motivator and driver of millions of simple human beings (of which Mark Zuckerberg is despite the press reports). It’s called FUD which is the acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. Prime motivators indeed.

For Facebook, the motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.

“Mark 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,” a Facebook employee said.

This could be discussed ad nauseum so we’ll save the bits and bytes today. What we want to know is simply whether you think this is a good idea or one that is even needed at all? Would you buy a Facebook phone? What would you expect it to be or do if it were to make it to the marketplace?