Not a lot of months pass before the "Facebook phone" rumor surfaces again. The company is, yet again – for the third time –, rumored to be building a smartphone to be out next year. It apparently snatched several Apple people to do this.
It's not just software people, but hardware guys as well, which would indicate that it's looking to design some of the hardware, or at least be deeply involved with this aspect rather than just passing it off to some manufacturer.
It may be more than that, Facebook is maybe even creating the entire phone from scratch. That's a very daunting task, seeing as companies with a lot of experience in this aren't doing that great lately.
But perhaps a fresh take will prove more successful. Still, the chances of Facebook building a phone that's good are slim, most people seem to agree. Facebook's previously reported phone project, "Buffy," is still going
, but Facebook is now expanding on it and hiring more hardware people.
All of this begs the question of why does Facebook want to build a phone in the first place? It's because it thinks it needs it. And, to a degree, it's right.
Facebook does need its own mobile platform to compete with Google in particular, but also with Apple, Microsoft or even Amazon. It may not seem like it, but all of these companies compete with each other, in more ways than one. And they all have their own phones, Amazon is said to be building one as well.
But the important thing here is not the actual device or devices, it's the platform. Google has a platform, Apple has one, Microsoft has one, Amazon hijacked Google's Android and built its own. Granted, only Google's and Apple's are popular.
Currently, Facebook is at the mercy of the platform owners, some are more open like Google, some more closed like Apple. But Facebook's success depends on others and that's not something that's going to work if Facebook wants to become the large company its market cap suggests it is.
So the big question and the important one is not whether Facebook is building a phone, a device, and why, it's what it's doing for a platform. I could be an Android fork, that's the reasonable path, or it could be something built from scratch.
After all, Mozilla is doing it, why not Facebook? But Microsoft has been struggling with Windows Phone for a couple of years and poured many billions into the project with not a lot to show for it. It's hard to see why Facebook should fare any better.