So, no, we’re not getting a Facebook phone.
Facebook’s not that ambitious, or foolish.
Instead, it looks like Facebook’s plan is to take over Android without destroying it.
According to Josh Constine at TechCrunch, who is well-sourced at Facebook, the plan is basically a huge “skin” of Android, not a “fork.”
A fork is what Amazon did with the Kindle Fire. It took the basic parts of Android, threw out Google’s services, and built its own services on top.
A skin leaves Android as Google constructed it largely intact. It adds a thin layer on top of Android that customises the software giving Facebook’s applications more prominence.
This fits perfectly with what Mark Zuckerberg says he wants to do.
“I think people want [Facebook] to be very integrated into all of the different devices that they have, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” Zuckerberg said on the company’s earnings call, “So, rather than just kind of building an app that’s a version of the functionality that you have today, I think making it so that we can just kind of do — go deeper and deeper, I think it’s going to be a big focus for us.”
Facebook wants to be integrated heavily into all operating systems. Right now, it’s baked into iOS, Apple’s mobile software. That’s nice, but it’s limited by Apple’s control of iOS.
With Android, because of its open source structure, Facebook can do much more to make its services prominently displayed.
Facebook is supposedly going to test its new model with HTC as a launch partner. The hope, we suppose, is that if it goes well other handset makers will work with Facebook. Or, perhaps, Facebook can make its skin a download available to any Android user.
If this works, it allows Facebook to take over Android without taking over Android. It’s a lot less work, but the effect is basically the same.