Rumors are circulating that Facebook will step out of the purely web-based experience and start to market its own Facebook phone. Entering the mobile market to compete with the likes of Apple and Google signals a serious intent on the part of the social networking behemoth to become a truly global player in all aspects of an interconnected world. Apple reinvented itself and launched the smartphone market. Google has expanded from a search engine into a provider of everything including the ability to smell through your phone (hint: April Fools!).
Industry speculation is that the book of faces will launch "Facebook Home," its forked Android OS, making it your home base for mobile operations. Although in development phase and not entirely available to the public, a couple of geeky journalists have been able to provide some leaks thus far on what to expect. All signs point to an HTC device that will provide the foundation for Facebook's mobile platform ventures.
On some levels, the move makes sense. Right now, pull up your mobile devices app catalog and look at the various different Facebook apps available. Instragram aside, which Facebook purchased, there exists a few different iterations of Facebook for you to use — Facebook, Messenger, and Facebook Pages Manager are all available for download. This signals that Facebook is trying at a very significant level to stay on the minds of mobile users. For those of you who manage a number of pages (like I do), chat with a good number of folks each day (like I do), and needlessly check your news feed for Onion articles (like I do), a platform to consolidate all these apps into one experience is a logical next step.
This might be a bridge too far for Facebook, though. To begin, there isn't a natural market for Facebook to market the mobile OS to. Business leaders aren't worried about more access to the site. If anything, Facebook is an annoyance to manager worried about productivity in the workplace. Younger users are migrating away from Facebook because, honestly, anything their Mom can use is not something cool. For Facebook to be successful, they'll have to target the soccer moms who aren't likely to buy a phone just because it's a Facebook phone.
Facebook isn't a productivity company, though. It's built on an intangible and unquantifiable need for people to feel connected to the world around them. It's why my grandmother who lives 2,000 miles away love it — she can stay connected and invite all her grandchildren to play Farmville with her. It's my my mother loves it — she can talk about herself to an ever growing number of other people to read. It's exactly why my father and step-mother don't — they don't care if you pay attention to them or not.
Google's variety of services, though, offer something to budding entrepreneurs and seasoned CEOs alike. From the suite of web-based word processors and spreadsheets to calendar functions, it is easy (and free) to integrate your business operations into Google's services. Hence, the Android OS which makes that even easier is a natural step for the tech company. Amazon's Kindle Fire offers a way to manage and seamlessly integrate all your available media purchased from Amazon in one location as well. Both companies offer tangible services with tangible value to consumers. Facebook does not, which makes the Facebook phone a hard sell to make.
Finally, just because other companies have branched off successfully with new services and products doesn't mean Facebook is in a position to do it as well. Google has marvelled at producing a wide variety of products and services. On the same token, other than Chris Miles posting stories, I don't see much going on Google+ these days. Myspace also attempted to move into the mobile market the same way Facebook did, and well ... Myspace is now the Detroit of the web.
Facebook might do well to find ways to expand its marketing presence and ways to increase revenue of apps. That said, launching a branded cell phone is likely not the best way to accomplish it.