The Guardian’s take on the will they won’t they (facebook) produce a phone.
Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old co-founder of Facebook who today overtook Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch on the Forbes rich list, has afforded TechCrunch a big interview to shed some light on the rumoured “Facebook phone”.
The internet was abuzz this weekend when speculation began growing about a Facebook-branded mobile phone; a chain-reaction of modestly-informed conjecture began with a TechCrunch article on Sunday. Now Zuck has sought to clear the air – with TechCrunch in particular – saying such misinformation makes partners (Apple and Google, among others) “think that we’re trying to compete with them, that makes them not want to work with us”. And: “If I knew who leaked it to you, I would’ve fired them already”.
Facebook is not out to compete with manufacturers or companies building operating systems, Zuckerberg clarified:
“What I can say generally is that our goal is not to build an operating system from scratch, or else not to design hardware from scratch. Our goal is to make it so that we can design the best integrations in the widest variety of phones.
“[…] I mean, who knows, 10 years down the road, maybe we’ll build our own operating system or something, but who knows. That is more history than we’ve had so far with the company, so it is really hard to predict that far out.”
And on the decidedly woolly “Facebook-branded phone” moniker quickly attached to the supposedly top-secret project, he said no conversations had reached the “level of detail” necessary for any manufacturer to carry its branding, saying: “So, do we have any conversation with someone to do deep integration? I’m sure we do. And I’m sure we’re talking to them about marketing.”
Taking a chunk out of Google’s recent pronouncements on adding “social layers” to existing products, he added:
“One thing that I think is really important — that I think is context for this, is that I generally think that most other companies now are undervaluing how important social integration is. So even the companies that are starting to come around to thinking, ‘oh maybe we should do some social stuff’, I still think a lot of them are only thinking about it on a surface layer, where it’s like ‘OK, I have my product, maybe I’ll add two or three social features and we’ll check that box’. That’s not what social is.”
Zuckerberg said the company is ploughing more development time into HTML5 as a way to standardise the site across different platforms. “It’s kind of a disaster right now,” he said, pointing to the number of times one product has to be written.
“I really hope that the direction that this stuff goes in is one where there’s more of a standard and again I think we have some people who are pretty good at working on this and hopefully we can capitalize on that because frankly we don’t … we have 4 or 500 engineers at the company, it’s pretty hard for us to build a lot of new products and build them all for these different platforms.
“So if something like HTML5 becomes a big standard then that would be hugely valuable for us. So we’ll help push that. I imagine that over the long term that will be the solution to this problem that you’re talking about.
How is Facebook appropriating its time across mobile devices? His answer: “So, iPhone is the one we’re investing in the most now, and Android increasingly. If Windows Phone 7 takes off, then I’m sure we’ll put resources on that. […] So maybe we’re not building a lot of specific stuff for RIM and Blackberry, but the HTML5 stuff that we’re doing will work there. [Though it won’t on Windows Phone 7, which won’t support HTML5 for some time – Charles Arthur]
“[…] But I think the main message that I would hope that you guys would come away with from our strategy is that our goal is breadth not depth,” Zuckerberg surmised. Got that?
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010