28 May 2012
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Facebook to launch browser, smartphone: rumour

By Contributor

Two separate reports have emerged over the weekend hinting at possible post-IPO projects for Facebook’s bosses.

The more credible of the rumours comes from the New York Times, which says sources within the company have indicated that a Facebook-branded smartphone could be on its way as early as next year.

According to the report, the company has hired six software and hardware engineers who formerly worked on the iPhone for Apple, as well as one who worked on the iPad, to assist with the project.

"Facebook is going to great lengths to keep the project secret,” the report says, "specifically not posting job listings on the company’s job wesite, but instead going door-to-door to find the right talent for the project.”

On the surface, the move makes sense, given that Facebook’s poor return on mobile platforms was one of the key concerns from analysts ahead of the IPO.

However, getting into hardware is also a huge amount of work, and the easier option would seem to be simply to buy another manufacturer, as Google has done with Motorola Mobility. This approach would also arm Facebook with some useful patents, which are a valuable commodity given the current legal battles taking place in the industry.

Less credible but perhaps more plausible is the rumour, initially from PocketLint, that Facebook is planning to buy Opera Software, the company responsible for the Opera browser.

As a solution to the mobility problem, this seems more effective than the device scenario. For one, Opera is available on all mobile devices, meaning using as a dedicated Facebook browser it would be available to everyone, not just the people willing to purchase a Facebook phone. Opera is also a highly regarded browser, with a solid record among critics and over 250 million monthly users.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that neither of these rumours will become a reality. Then, as Forbes writer Reuven Cohen points out, there’s also the chance that both will, giving Facebook ‘all the required components needed to launch its own phone platform’.

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