We all know that Facebook bought up Instagram either to get their hands on some new technology or to deny their competitors access to it. Shortly after the buy they launched their own applications called Camera which although for iPhone only right now has garnered quite a bit of attention (like most of the things that Zuckerberg does). This is a foray into the mobile market in a way that Facebook has not been able to do before and could also be an indication that they are trying to get a better grip on mobile users (which they are). According to one recent report the number of people that are connecting to Facebook from mobile devices (and this includes iPads, iPhones, Android phones and tablets) is on the rise. Many of these connections are just to post up a new picture (as we saw with Instagram) which is another reason Facebook wanted an app for their very own.
Now many have seen the purchase as a move to deny other companies access to technology that Facebook sees as essential to social networking in the mobile market. The timing of the release of Camera was a little too suspicious for many (us included). It also (as we have mentioned) could be the opening moves into Facebook expanding their mobile presence, but on its own is not enough to back up a phone rumor.
Next we have the often repeated rumor that Facebook is eying Opera and wants to buy the browser company. If you remember Google began work on their own browser shortly before the official launch of Android and have been working on integrating it into that OS ever since. It would make sense that if Facebook was indeed working to build a mobile phone OS they would need a competing browser to work with. Opera is a good choice as, although popular, it does not have the same penetration as FireFox or other independent browser companies. Opera also already has working versions of their browser for mobile devices. This would give Facebook something of a head start into development.
So we have a mobile phone app with direct integration into Facebook that is a reality and a single rumor about buying a browser… Nope still not enough to really make the phone rumor work yet.
Another item that is getting thrown around these days is one where Facebook has hired some of the iPhone/iPad talent away from Apple. This new one popped up this morning and seems to be a big indicator that Facebook is working on something in the mobile market. The group of six is a combination of hardware and software engineers; according to some reports were privately cherry picked by Facebook for their individual talents. Now, as with the other reports, this is not a confirmed item, but does seem likely. Facebook has also just put up an ad for a “head of mobile operations”. This position would be there to help build the tools and systems to support Facebook’s mobile operations.
So do things look like Facebook is going to build a mobile phone yet? To us there is a good indication that they are working on something mobile, we are not sure if it is a Facebook branded phone. We are also wondering about the market acceptance of a Facebook phone. One of Facebook’s biggest issues is the collection of personal information. They have been pushing the limits of the laws with their collection practices as it stands. If they built a phone you can bet that they would start collecting even more (much of it without expressed user consent). To give you an idea about what this might look like just imagine the CarrierIQ fiasco but with the type of collection practices that Facebook has. There would be nothing that you did on your phone (or while it was with you) that they would not be collecting. Just look at the Camera app, right now if you do not let it tag your location its stops working think about that and then bundle it with a full phone OS.
We have talked about corporate personalities before and Facebook’s is one where they have the mentality of a stalker; they want to know what you are doing, where you are, who you are with, how long you were there and more. If they are already under investigation and scrutiny with what they are doing with their site and apps what makes anyone think they would change this if they build a phone…
We think that Facebook might be working on a mobile device, but we have doubts that it will end up being a market changer and might not even get market acceptance simply for Facebook’s obsessive need to know everything about their users.
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