Why Facebook Might Really Be Doing Its Own Phone, Despite What Zuck Said
So, thank God for Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard, who asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg point blank whether the company was building its own phone.
At first Zuckerberg’s answer seemed to be a fairly strong “no.”
“There are lots of things that you can build in other operating systems, as well,” Zuckerberg said, “that aren’t really taking — that aren’t really like building out a whole phone which I think wouldn’t really make much sense for us to do.” (Emphasis obviously mine.)
But back up for a second. Nobody, including AllThingsD, ever said Facebook was building its own phone. As my colleagues reported last year, Facebook tapped Taiwanese cellphone manufacturer HTC as a partner in working on a Facebook phone, one that has the social network’s platform fully integrated deep into the core of the hardware.
And Zuckerberg was careful in how he worded his answer. “We thought a lot about this question,” Zuckerberg said. “We want to not just have apps that people use, but also be kind of as deeply integrated into these systems as possible.”
His comments still leave tons of room for the company to be doing most of the work on a phone, while working alongside one or many partner manufacturers to do the actual hardware. Even Apple could arguably say it doesn’t manufacture phones — Foxconn builds the phones — and Apple is the most profitable phone maker in the world.
Speaking of Apple, a potential Zuckerbergian shuck and jive like this recalls a move by another famed tech CEO: Steve Jobs. He’s one of Zuck’s former mentors, with the young CEO taking in Jobs’s decades of experience on long walks together through Palo Alto. And up until the very moment Apple was ready to announce a product, Jobs had no qualms about publicly pooh-poohing rumored products — just as he did onstage with Walt Mossberg at the D: All Things Digital conference, nearly a decade ago.
Keeping that in mind, Bloomberg’s story from Wednesday resurfaces exactly what we reported a year ago: The phone is set to debut sometime in the next year or so. As Nick Bilton noted in a New York Times column in June, Facebook has even hired ex-Apple mobile engineers, with the express intent of getting the phone out the door by next year.
That said, Facebook could be shifting gears, especially considering the recent departures from the company. As we reported, former CTO Bret Taylor was spearheading the Buffy project — that is, before he announced he would soon leave to work on his own start-up.
Whatever the case, we’d be remiss to take Zuck’s answer at face value.