Facebook: “Building phones is just not what we do”

Facebook squelches rumors it has Android smartphone on tap

Facebook Sunday denied it is building a phone based on Google Android, squelching reports on the Web that surfaced this weekend about the social networking site's broadening ambitions.

In a denial splashed across the Web, including Reuters, the company said: "Facebook is not building a phone. Our approach has always been to make phones and apps more social. Current projects include everything from an HTML5 version of the site to apps on major platforms to full Connect support with SDKs to deeper integrations with some manufacturers.  Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this... 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."

TechCrunch got the ball rolling on this story with a report over the weekend titled "Facebook is secretly building a phone."  Its story says two star programmers -- Joe Hewitt of Firefox fame and a creator of Facebook's iPhone apps, and Matthew Papakipos, formerly of the Google Chrome OS project - are heading up the project, which would enable Facebook to get its claws into the contacts list and other key parts of a phone via the OS.

Business Insider has confirmed it has heard similar plans for Facebook from Silicon Valley insiders and says Facebook's project is based on Google Android.  The combination of Facebook and Android, of course, is made all the more interesting considering the battle between Facebook and Google for users' time on the Web.

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Reports don't claim Facebook is actually building a phone from the ground up, hardware included, but rather is working on a branded phone (along the lines of the now largely defunct Google Nexus phone) that would serve as a platform for a deep Facebook application experience.

It's not like Facebook hasn't already been integrated with phones and phone services through its own efforts and those of other companies. For example, Vonage in August launched a VoIP app that allows people to call each other from their Facebook pages.  A Facebook app for Android also exists. 

Some industry watchers aren't buying Facebook's denial, noting that Google also denied getting into the phone business before rolling out Nexus One. And with 500 million-plus users - including more than 150 million on mobile devices - Facebook certainly has plenty of incentive to stretch itself.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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