'Buffy' HTC Facebook phone coming in 2013; Android frag-fest?

By Richi Jennings (@richi ) - November 22, 2011.

[Updated 5am Nov 23, with more sources]

Mark Zuckerberg
We're told, by those in the know, that Facebook is building a phone of its own, codenamed 'Buffy', and manufactured by HTC. The Android-based platform would have the social network baked in, rather than tacked on. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers ponder the continuing fragmentation of Android.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Ken Murphy's stunning timelapse, 'A History of the Sky'...

    Liz Gannes and Ina Fried tag-team:

Facebook has tapped...HTC to build a smartphone that has the social network integrated at the core. ... Code-named “Buffy,”...the phone is planned to run on a modified version of Android. ... Mobile is critical to Facebook’s future. And moving directly into the phone business...may well be essential for the company.


[T]he fight for mobile control is...fierce. Google and Apple...[give] Facebook little say over its mobile destiny. Apple... made Twitter its social partner. ... Google is increasingly a direct competitor...[with] Google+.   

  Chikodi Chima adds:

The so-called “Facebook phone” has been at the heart of rampant speculation for more than two years. ... “Buffy,” if real, is named after the famous vampire slayer.


This jibes with Facebook’s overall strategy of putting social features at the heart of an experience, as opposed to layering them on.   

  But MG Siegler has heard it all before:

[We] broke this story over a year ago. ... [T]here’s no question it has been real the entire time. ... Facebook has been working on their own version of Android...which Dan Frommer was first to point out...also over a year ago, and I reiterated hearing this past February.


Here’s all you need to know...Facebook is building a phone because Facebook has to build a phone. ... The fact of the matter is that mobile is the future of computing and it’s currently controlled by two gate masters. ... [If] Facebook wants to be a big boy company, they can’t afford to be one code push away from banishment on the important platforms.   

  And Ewan Spence foresees Facebook's folly:

[Forking] Android, in a similar way to Amazon, [is] a significant amount of work and they would still be left isolated as a platform. Getting all those HTML5 Facebook apps might look good on paper, but mobiles are not small desktop browsers.


It reminds of the fuss around the INQ1. ... [It] worked comfortably with services such as Skype, Last.FM, MySpace and of course Facebook getting a central place in the app launcher. ... [It] gathered solid reviews...(and a Best Handset at the 2009 Mobile World Congress) but...it didn’t trouble the big smartphone names then.   

 Meanwhile, Kim-Mai Cutler has this saucy background:

[T]he project itself has had a long and troubled history internally at Facebook, say sources. ... [It was o]riginally a skunkworks project that was kept secret from employees for months. ... Sources tell us that Buffy has been a “train wreck,” and was one of the many reasons that [VP] Chamath Palihapitiya...left the company.


But one of the many problems with forking Android...is that a Facebook phone would always be at least one version behind. ... A Facebook phone...would need to be so compelling that the device would stand out against the very latest Android phones.


So why is Facebook still working on it? ... “They don’t know what to do,” says another source.   


And Finally...
Ken Murphy's stunning timelapse, 'A History of the Sky'
[hat tip: Jeffrey L. Seglin]

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Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of Computerworld. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itbw@richij.com. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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