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Facebook is planning to launch its own phone, code-named Buffy, reports the Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD blog.
Citing a source close to the project, AllThingsD (consistently more reilable that its sometimes hysterical opposition), says the handset will be contract-manufactured by HTC and run on a “heavily modified” version of Google’s Android software.
The giant social network already works closely with phone companies and smartphone makers worldwide and is apparently already wildly popularin its mobile incarnation (in June, Vodafone NZ said Facebook traffic now accounts for half of all its mobile data use).
So why make its own phone?
AllThingsD says Facebook wants people to be able to upload photos directly from a photo-taking app and to tightly integrate Facebook contacts with the phone’s address book.
A source familiar with the project says Buffy (named for the TV vampire slayer), will support HTML 5 as its main app platform (Adobe recently signalled its intention to wind down the mobile version of Flash – supported by Android but not Apple’s iOS – in favour of focussing on the open HTML 5).
The site speculates the handset could be 12 to 18 months away.
So does Facebook want to own the mobile phone market? Possibly. But more likely, in NBR's view, Buffy will play a similar role to Google's Nexus phone (contract manufactured first by HTC, now by Samsung). That is, it will be used as a showcase for what can be done with the social network on a mobile - to encourage other phone makers to follow suit with similar features, and to illustrate the increased hardware competition they could face if they don't.
Facebook claims 800 million active users.