Facebook has been trying its hands on making phones centric to its social network for a while and somehow translate that into more ad revenues from users who are increasingly accessing Facebook from their mobile phones. It first started with Hutchison Whampoa owned INQ Mobile and more recently HTC’s two Android smartphones with dedicated Facebook buttons. But neither of them succeeded and Facebook on mobile has since become an app that brings no advertising dollars to the company. And this (mobile) is Facebook’s biggest challenge and something that Zuckerberg & Co are trying hard to overcome. And to do that, Facebook has recently recruited more than half-a-dozen Apple engineers who have worked on the iPhone and one on the iPad, the NYT
If things work out, Facebook could be on track to launch its own phone sometime next year. This is part of Facebook’s Project Buffy, which indicated that the phone could be launched in the second quarter of 2013 and would be a heavily customized version of Android and run Facebook’s HTML5 apps. Since then we have heard rumors of Facebook working with HTC to develop the phone, probably running a forked version of Android, just like Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
In the meanwhile, Facebook acquired Instagram, which happens to be one of the most popular mobile app for sharing photographs. The social networking giant with over 900 million users has also rolled out App Center, basically an app store for Facebook apps, which could easily become an app store for the Facebook phone. There are also rumors about Facebook acquiring Opera Software, the makers of Internet browsers for feature phones, smartphones and PCs. Opera could become an important part of Facebook’s mobile strategy and help it disassociate itself from Google completely.
How well this works out remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, Facebook will have to get it right this time around.