Facebook is (Sort Of) Building a Phone, It's Called "Buffy"
According to AllThingsD, Facebook is allegedly at work with HTC to create their own mobile device based off the Android OS. If their source is to be believed, the device is code-named “Buffy,” presumably to slay the vampires of Apple and Google. Though rumors of a Facebook have been circulating for over a year, this news is the first firm evidence of such a device.
Despite Facebook’s success, it’s fair to ask why they would want to tempt fate and launch their own device. The issue is probably control, or rather, the fact that Facebook has almost none.
Take the iPhone. Facebook’s app is hugely popular on the platform, but it has to conform to Apple’s draconian rules to be allowed within the walled garden of iOS. That means that Apple controls how Facebook could make money on the device, and even how features can be integrated with the phone itself. Apple could also, at any time and for any reason, simply kick Facebook out of the app garden. If you need proof of this uneasy existence between the two companies, just look at the saga surrounding the Facebook iPad app.
Google’s handsets, on the other hand, are all about tight integration with their products. If you’re on an Android phone, why would you use Facebook’s currency system, its messaging, or even its social networking when Google has G+, Google Wallet, and GMail built right in? No matter what platform Facebook goes with, they’re going to be treated like a peasant and not a king.
It’s important to note that while Facebook has collaborated with other device makers in the past, resulting in that thoroughly weird “Facebook Button” phone, this would be a device built solely around the social networking service. AllThingsD says that from what they’ve heard, a final product is still 12 to 18 months away.
For inspiration, Facebook may be looking to Amazon’s Kindle. With the launch of that device, Amazon was able to establish itself as a hardware manufacturer, and then expand their niche from simply being a retailer to being a media service. Likewise, Facebook is probably hoping to be going from a timesink, to an actual tool through which users do everything.
Facebook seems to be angling to realize the full potential of its services, all on one device. With no one else’s rules to worry about, Facebook could run wild with its aspirations, and perhaps really shake up the smartphone market — assuming, of course, they don’t do something horrible with all that power. Facebook doesn’t have a great track record with privacy, after all. And it’s worth noting that launching hardware is a very, very difficult thing to do; it’s a very small change to go from “Buffy” to “Buggy.”