Rumours over a "Facebook phone" have been around for a couple of years now.
Recent news has finally added some legitimacy to the notion: The New York Times has come forth to suggest that Facebook will be launching a branded smartphone next year—and its snatching up some key talent to make it happen.
According to the NY Times, Facebook is recruiting several former Apple iPhone and iPad engineers to work on the project—"more than half a dozen" so far, the Times' inside sources claim. And apparently those old rumours of a phone were true as well: the article reveals that Facebook tried to develop a smartphone twice before, but the plans ultimately "crumbled" due to "technical difficulties."
Considering how most people are largely unimpressed with Facebook's mobile apps, one would have to assume the company can't intend to brew its own operating system from scratch. This means it will have to use an existing platform, such as Google's Android, as the foundation, while adding extensive customizations, not unlike Amazon did with the Kindle Fire. After all, iOS is closed, RIM is hesitant to open up BlackBerry, and Nokia and Microsoft are snuggled together at the moment.
With over 500 million mobile users, Facebook could benefit from the revenue diversity of selling a mobile device. Right now, its relying heavily on advertising, which hasn't been going so well lately. A successful hardware product in the social network's portfolio would certainly help ease the current wariness of investors.
According to other rumours, Facebook is also reportedly trying to launch its own web browser.