Facebook set to beef up Instagram with video?

Analysts say tight-lipped Facebook's announcement on Thursday will likely involve mobile and video, and it needs to be a blockbuster

Speculation abounds that Facebook Thursday will unveil tools to enable its popular Instagram app to take and share short videos.

Though analysts say Facebook offered no pre-briefings about the announcement, those interviewed for this story agree that the new offering will likely be mobile-focused

Most of those predict Facebook will be unveiling an upgrade to Instagram.

"I hope it is something around mobile because Facebook lost a lot of credibility after the failed Facebook Home release," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Additionally, Twitter's Vine video feature is getting a lot of attention lately, so a Vine knock-off could be in order."

Last Friday, news hit that Facebook was inviting reporters to a product announcement on June 20 at its Menlo Park, Calif. offices. "A small team has been working on a new idea," the invitation reads. "Join us for coffee and learn about a new product."

There was no hint of the product to be announced.

The secrecy and speculation around the announcement largely mirrors the hubbub that built up before Facebook unveiled Home, its Android launcher and app family, this past April.

Before the April announcement, some analysts had expected the company to release its own smartphone. That was not the case.

Now the expert speculation is focused a video feature for Instagram, the social network's photo-sharing app.

If true, Facebook would be taking a page from social rival Twitter, which in January launched Vine, a service that lets mobile users capture and share short, looping videos. Each video onlys last six seconds or less.

Vine was initially only available as a free download for the Apple iPhone and the iPod Touch. Earlier this month, Twitter added Android to the list.

Last week, Facebook announced that it was enabling hashtags on its site, also comparable to Twitter capabilities.

Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, Inc., said Facebook's announcement today must be a homerun.

"In terms of what would help Facebook, clearly they are focused on mobile so whatever they announce will not only be social at its core but will also have a significant focus on the mobile experience," he said, noting that Home has been widely panned.

"Given the recent product launch troubles, I feel Facebook does need to turn things around. They need to not only improve these recent product launches that are not doing well, but they also need to have some winners too, and having a good launch this week would really help them in terms of keeping users happy," Blau said.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said an announcement that Facebook is adding a video feature for Instagram may not be enough to boost the firm's standing.

Moorhead said Facebook could use a number of mobile-focused apps or features, such as a local app that encourages people to check in to local restaurants or stores. Facebook also could use a Vine-like feature, he added.

"Facebook has a lot of ground to make up and if they announce something awesome, past failure will be forgotten quickly," he added.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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Sharon Gaudin

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