Sorry, but Chris is wrong, completely wrong: a Facebook phone is an appalling idea. The social network may be struggling to find its feet in mobile, and it may have money to burn, but that desperation doesn’t equal stupidity. Scale – being the place that all your friends and family are too – is its primary strength, and throwing that away on a naive grab in a new industry does nothing to capitalize on that.
Facebook hasn’t been the minor player the social segment for some time now, and chasing that position in mobile would do it few favors. Today, the smartphone market is dominated by two platforms, iOS and Android. Microsoft’s struggles to broach that dominance with Windows Phone (and its own untold billions) shows just how difficult a challenge it can be.
"Why should Facebook threaten its position by becoming a bit-player?"
Mark Zuckerberg already has a footprint on each. Why should it threaten that position by becoming a bit-player in its own right? It’s a zero-sum game, really, distracting your development investment toward a platform with very few users from rivals with millions.
You don’t need to control the whole mobile experience to engage with users. You just need to create an ecosystem that is sufficiently engaging to keep them using your app. Facebook already has devotees avidly using it while mobile: it doesn’t need to draw them in, just monetize them in the most efficient way possible.
It’s true that Facebook isn’t handling mobile well today. But throwing the IPO billions at a project to build an entire phone is a folly that even Facebook wouldn’t consider. If the rumors are accurate – and the company looked to making a smartphone but abandoned those plans after the entirety of the challenge became clear – then such knowledge, and the increasingly cut-throat mobile industry itself, should leave it in no confusion as to why aiming for a slice of the handset market leads to nothing but pain.