Services & Software

Facebook denies 'Facebook phone' report

The social-networking giant criticizes a TechCrunch report that the company is secretly developing its own mobile operating system.

Facebook is denying a report in TechCrunch that the social-networking giant is working in secret on producing its own mobile phone.

In a report accompanied by the headline "Facebook Is Secretly Building A Phone," TechCrunch reported earlier today that the social-networking giant is developing an operating system to be used on hardware created by a third party. The report named two senior Facebook executives with experience developing operating systems--Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos--as working on the project. Papakipos, a former engineering director at Google, left the search giant for Facebook in June after working on the Chrome operating system and Chrome browser.

Editors' note: See CNET's follow-up story, "Facebook mulling a branded smartphone."

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington posits that the move is intended to integrate user contact lists and other social-networking functions on a phone.

However, Facebook says Arrington got the story wrong.

"Facebook is not building a phone," Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin told CNET today. "Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this.

"The people mentioned in the story are working on these projects," Schopflin said, referencing current projects in the works, such as an HTML5 version of the site. "The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a 'Facebook Phone' because that's such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do."

Mobile social networking has exploded in popularity in the last year. Among the 69.6 million phone users who tapped mobile apps over the three-month period ending in April, 14.5 million of them accessed social networks--a 240 percent jump from the same period in 2009, according to a recent study released by ComScore.

However, if Arrington's report proved accurate, Facebook wouldn't be the first to try to create a phone specifically designed for social networking. In partnership with Verizon, Microsoft in April unveiled a social media-oriented phone called Kin geared toward the mainly for the 15- to 30-year-olds who post frequently to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, Microsoft pulled the plug on sales less than two months later in the face of criticism that it lacked key features and came with monthly fees as high as more capable smartphones, such as the iPhone and Android-based devices.