Facebook Denies Phone Rumor, But Talk Continues

Dennis Faas's picture

Social networking giant Facebook has flatly denied a report that it is working on its own cell phone. But not everyone believes the rumors are false.

Facebook Phone Story Leak by TechCrunch

The first report came this past Sunday when TechCrunch founder and writer Michael Arrington claimed that Facebook was working on a program by which it would write the phone's operating system and software, while partnering with a manufacturer to physically build the handset.

According to Arrington, two senior Facebook staff members have been working on the project. One helped create the Mozilla Firefox browser, while the other was a leading figure in the development of Google's forthcoming Chrome operating system. (Source: techcrunch.com)

Beyond this, the TechCrunch report doesn't have any other confirmed details. Arrington speculates the most logical outcome would be a low-price handset completely integrated with the site: for example, users could place voice calls to Facebook friends without necessarily knowing or remembering their number.

Facebook Says Story Not Accurate

Facebook has issued a statement, which at first glance appears to be a clear-cut dismissal.

"The story is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone ... the bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a 'Facebook Phone' (even internally) because that's such an attractive soundbite, but our real strategy is to make everything social and not build one phone or integration."

In between those two lines, however, the company talked about its desire to have Facebook "integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems", giving the example of an existing phone from manufacturer INQ that contains many social networking features.

Is Facebook Playing Semantic Game?

Several tech analysts are now questioning whether Facebook has chosen its words carefully. Mic Wright calls the statement an "unconvincing denial" and suggests that a future INQ handset built with Facebook might be what Arrington's report refers to.

In other words: Facebook itself wouldn't physically build the phone, a set-up Wright likens to the way Google didn't physically make the HTC Nexus One, widely referred to as the "Google Phone". (Source: electricpig.co.uk)

Of course, you might wonder if Facebook itself is behind the story "leaking" to TechCrunch. After all, if the company wanted to discover what the public reaction to the idea of a Facebook phone was, getting a deniable story out there would certainly be an effective way to do it.

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