Monday 14 January 2013

Facebook Phone may be launched at January 15 event

With less than a day to go for Facebook’s big hush-hush event, rumours are rife about what Zuckerberg and co. will be announcing on January 15’s event. TechCrunch reports that details of the event are not forthcoming, but ‘big deal’ and ‘mobile’ seem to be the words all sources are using, fuelling rumours that Facebook might be building its own phone after all.

The fabled Facebook phone has been talked about in hushed tones for over two years now, even though Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the social networking website, has denied these reports time and time again. But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time a company was denying something only to come out and launch it later.

The invite to Tuesday’s press even reads, ‘Come see what we’re building’. While we can almost be certain there is a phone involved in this event, it is unclear whether Facebook will be releasing an actual piece of branded hardware or simply a sort of Facebook OS for mobile.

Facebook has always maintained that it is not building a phone, but reports that surfaced in late 2011 went on to speak about a mythical Facebook phone codenamed Buffy that was to be built around the Android ecosystem. It was reported that Facebok had approached HTC to build Buffy. The project was apparently being handled by then Facebook CTO, Bret Taylor and was supposed to be tight knit with all the popular Facebook features on the web with HTML5 will be being its key element.

Facebook, of course, had denied rumours of Buffy’s existence. But at the time, it was said that Buffy could launch within 12 to 18 months, which sure enough coincides with the January 15 conference.

One school of analysts feel that Facebook could be building a phone or OS to tap into the developing country market, a field that has a great scope of expansion for Facebook services. If Facebook has to go beyond its one billon users, this is the place it would need to look at. While it is not possible to build a phone of the calibre of the iPhone or Nexus devices here, Facebook might be looking at a low-end to middle range phone to be put forth in emerging markets as a sort of a game changer.

Facebook has always been interested in helping users of developing nations to access the site. One major example was the launch of Facebook Zero in 2010 that enabled users accessing the social networking website from phones that did not allow for fast browsing to enjoy a fast, light-weight Facebook experience.

Facebook has been really good at keeping secrets these days and has been playing out its cards way better than what the world has been expecting, with buying out multiple services and constant face-lifts to their interfaces. It could be possible that Zuckerberg will throw a complete surprise at speculators that no one was probably expecting. But as of now, it looks like the mythical Facebook phone could end up being a reality soon.

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