Report: Facebook bolsters efforts to build smartphone

Facebook has hired former Apple engineers, the New York Times says

Facebook is revitalizing its effort to create a smartphone, recruiting engineers who have experience with mobile devices, according to a story in the New York Times Sunday.

Facebook has kept its renewed effort to come up with a smartphone quiet, avoiding putting ads on public sites, according to the article, which cited unnamed sources inside the company, people briefed by the company and people who had been the target of recruitment initiatives.

Facebook wants to release a smartphone by next year, and has picked up former Apple engineers who had worked on the iPhone, as well one who worked on the iPad, according to the article.

This is not the first Facebook smartphone initiative. An effort started several years ago, first reported by TechCrunch, fell apart when it became clear that the company did not have the expertise necessary to come up with a smartphone on its own, according to the Times story.

Facebook then teamed up with manufacturer HTC in a project, codenamed "Buffy," which is ongoing, according to the Times. The current initiative to recruit new talent expands the Buffy project. All Things D first reported on the Buffy project last year.

As it finds its way as a public company, Facebook is looking for ways to bolster financial results. Its May 18 IPO, marred by technical glitches at the Nasdaq as well as accusations that the lead underwriter may have breached financial disclosure rules, has put the spotlight on the company's earnings and the uphill battle it may have to monetize its huge user base.

In the past few day, reports have emerged that Facebook may acquire Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, developer of browsers for desktops and mobile phones. Facebook executives have said that the mobile world is key to further expansion for the company.

On Thursday, Facebook launched a mobile photo app, Camera, even before it closed a deal to buy photo-sharing app Instagram.

The US$1 bilion deal for Instagram was announced April 9.

The latest reports about Facebook's smartphone efforts also come within a week after Google closed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. The close of the deal means that Google has a hardware manufacturing arm with which it can closely work to develop Android. Google will also have control of Motorola's massive patent portfolio. Motorola Mobility has said that it owns or has applied for more than 24,000 patents.

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Marc Ferranti

IDG News Service

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