Google completed its acquisition of the hardware maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, which could lead to the search giant`s making its own smartphone. But another software titan might be getting into the hardware game as well: Facebook.
Employees of Facebook and several engineers who have been sought out by recruiters there, as well as people briefed on Facebook`s plans, say the company hopes to release its own smartphone by next year. These people spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their employment or relationships with Facebook.
The company has already hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad, the employees and those briefed on the plans said.
This would be Facebook`s third effort at building a smartphone, said one person briefed on the plans and one who was recruited. In 2010, the blog TechCrunch reported that Facebook was working on a smartphone.
The project crumbled after the company realized the difficulties involved, according to people who had worked on it. The website AllThingsD reported last year that Facebook and HTC had entered a partnership to create a smartphone, code-named "Buffy," which is still in the works.
Now, the company has been going deeper into the process, by expanding the group working on "Buffy," and exploring other smartphone projects too, creating a team of seasoned hardware engineers who have built the devices before.
One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he met with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook`s chief executive, who then peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones.
It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used, he said. Another former Apple hardware engineer was recruited by a Facebook executive and was told about the company`s hardware explorations.
When asked Friday, Facebook did not deny or confirm that a project to build a smartphone existed, but pointed to a previous statement it gave to AllThingsD last year that said in part, "We`re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers."
For Facebook, the motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.
"Mark is worried that if he doesn`t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms," a Facebook employee said.
BdST 2159 HRS, MAY 28, 2012
Sabbin Hasan, ICT Editor
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