Before when we explored the possibility of Facebook partnering with someone for a Facephone the likely accomplice in this was Microsoft and Nokia. Now we are not so sure that the indicators are correct for a Facebook-Microsoft-Nokia love triangle. One of the biggest reasons that we feel this way now is that all of the recent indications from Facebook are that they do not want to rely on anyone and also do not want to compete with anyone for their manufacturing arm’s attention. You can see this with the recent purchases they have made (important bits of software). They apparently want control of these items and will even go so far as to buy something just to keep someone else from having it (the Instagram Purchase comes to mind).
So let’s look at where the Facephone rumors are;
Develop new mobile payment methods – check (they are using real money now, not just credits.)
Build Design team for mobile push – check (Facebook has hired several iPhone and Other Apple developers away from Apple)
Focus on Mobile advertising - check (Facebook now has a location based ad system in play)
Build hardware to work with a new mobile OS with Facebook integrated
Ok the last one has not been done yet, but Facebook has worked with both Apple and Google to integrate Facebook into a phone OS. From everything we are seeing with iOS 6 Facebook will almost be the core of the way the OS works. This is something that we have already seen with Android and which will likely continue for quite a while (especially since Google+ is not doing so well).
The only piece of the puzzle is who Facebook will use to build the handset. In this case, if Facebook sticks to their pattern we would expect them to buy a handset maker rather than enter a manufacturing agreement. This makes RIM the likely candidate for use as a Facephone partner. It would be a company that they would control and that is not reliant on for anything.
Of course there are other candidates as well, but if the rumor of RIM selling of their handset business is true they would be who we would put our money on. For the record other candidates (and the reasons they are likely are:
Samsung – Samsung has gotten tired of the continual legal fighting with Apple. Building their own OS or one in collaboration with another partner would be attractive for them. To Facebook Samsung’s market leading products look really good.
Nokia – With the recent snub that Microsoft gave them with Windows 8 they could be interested in looking for another partner in case Microsoft drops them in the near future. Facebook would be interested in Nokia because of their mobile payment technology and also their economic troubles (dumping money into them means they would be better primed for a purchase at a later date).
HTC – HTC could be interested in Facebook for some of the same reasons that Samsung is. The continual fighting with Apple gets old and wastes money that HTC does not really have. Also Microsoft snubbed them over Windows RT which could create resentment in the company and open the doors to new partners. Facebook might like them for some of the same reasons as Nokia.
So we have quite a few pieces of the puzzle, but the last one is still pretty much a mystery for now. We will be looking for more signs of this and as always will let you know what we find. For now though, we do expect for Facebook to introduce a phone of their own within the originally stated 16 months, whether or not this is a good idea or one that will work we will leave up to you.
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