TechCrunch’s report on Facebook’s secret plans to build its own phone is thin on details. The idea is wild and it sounds somewhat insane. But according to TechCrunch, Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos (who seem suitably qualified) are working on a secret project. It provokes the question: Does Facebook even need a phone?
It’s not so much about the phone in a hardware sense. It’s about building a platform and ecosystem to guarantee that Facebook continues to own its social footprint on the PC and mobile phones.
Facebook already has a number of APIs, SDKs and plug-ins available to developers. The goal is simple — to get as close as possible to an operating (eco)system on the web.
So why wouldn’t it try to do the same thing on mobile phones?
Facebook’s size and reach put it in the cross hairs of rivals Google and Apple. Much of its survival on phones hinges on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. I just don’t see either rival providing deep Facebook deep access into their mobile operating system. Just look at how Apple’s Ping and Google’s Buzz are turning out. Facebook’s reliance on its rivals in the mobile space is downright risky.
Also keep in mind the line between a traditional address book and a social one has blurred. Arguably, the people who matter to you are probably already on Facebook, along with all their contact details. It’s really up to Facebook to define what a “social contact book” looks like. This is the best way to do that.
Update: Facebook issued a denial to Mashable the very next day:
“The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a ‘Facebook Phone’ because that’s such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do.”