Facebook will be holding a product announcement at its headquarters next Thursday. Members of the press were given an invitation saying, “Come see our new home on Android.”
We haven’t heard what the product will be, but it could be an overhauled Android app or, more likely, a modified version of the Google-owned mobile operating system. For years there have been rumors and reports about Facebook building a phone. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has many times denied this, implying that the company wouldn’t be getting into the hardware business, but leaving open the possibility for something else.
In an interview with Mike Arrington last year, Zuckerberg said building its own phone wouldn’t “move the move the needle for us” and that it was important for the social network to be as much a part of as many devices as possible. Last summer, Facebook became integrated with iOS 6 and OSX Mountain Lion so that users could sign in once and easily post back to the social network and bring their friends’ information into their phonebook, calendar and App Store. So far, Facebook doesn’t have an equivalent of this on Android, the most widely used mobile operating system in the world.
Over the past year Facebook has made strides in better integrating with Android, such grouping texts and Facebook messages within Messenger so users can text message their phone contacts from Facebook’s app. Another feature is auto-syncing photos on a user’s phone with a private album on Facebook. Most recently, Facebook began testing a way for Android users to get automatic downloads of the latest version of its app.
On the company’s Q2 2012 earnings call, Zuckerberg said:
“We want to not just have apps that people use, but also be as deeply integrated into these systems as possible. We want to support a development ecosystem where other apps can build on top of Facebook, so that’s why you’ll see us do things like support Apple in the iOS integration that they wanted to do. There are lots of things that you can build in other operating systems as well that aren’t really like building out a whole phone, which I think wouldn’t really make much sense for us to do. So I do think that there’s a big opportunity for us here.”
Facebook collaborated with HTC in 2011 on the HTC “ChaCha” and “Salsa” devices, Android-based phones with a dedicated Facebook button to share music, photos and messages. The company could continue this strategy and partner with HTC or a number of manufacturers and mobile providers to run a version of Android with more Facebook features built in. 9to5Google reports that Facebook and HTC are working together on a marketing campaign for a soon-to-be-launched smartphone.
We’ll be reporting live from the press event next week. The invitation below is non transferrable and is simply to illustrate how Facebook is hinting at its next big product launch.