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Facebook fone? Feh, says Facebook

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Facebook has been busy denying rumours that it's planning to manufacture its own mobile phone, though not everyone is convinced.

The story stared with TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, who reported the secret project to create a phone with an integrated Facebook experience. The report mentions staff assigned to the project, and speculates that it will feature Spotify capabilities too. Even denials from Facebook itself have failed to quell the story.

"Facebook is not building a phone" the company's statement says, explaining that it's working on all sorts of things in the mobile space and that "people want to call it a ‘Facebook Phone’ because that’s such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do". But that's not enough for CNET, who reckons Facebook is playing with words like Google did before (Google accurately said it would never make an Android handset, though but it did start selling one made by HTC).

Not that making a phone is hard these days: knock on the doors of HTC, Pantech or half a dozen other Asian manufacturers and they'll roll out a dozen reference designs from which you can take your pick of features. Stick a copy of Android on there, or tweak up something new, then add some branding and pre-installed applications, before you know it you can call yourself a phone manufacturer - works for Apple.

But why would Facebook, or anyone else, do such a thing? Facebook already has a variety of mobile versions, and aggregated address books (which pull in content from social networking and cloud sites) are de rigeur these days, so it would be hard to differentiate a "Facebook" offering. Facebook themselves, in the denial, point to the INQ1 as offering an ideal Facebook experience.

The story has prompted much discussion of what a Facebook phone would do, though almost all of it focuses on enabling value-added content including Farmville and its ilk, when the real issue is surely the inability of mobile versions to make money for Facebook. For an advertising-funded service to be unable to display adverts is surely unforgivable.

So if there were a Facebook phone then surely it would be focused on getting revenue from those mobile users, gathering user information and presenting targeted advertising under the guise of providing greater mobility - a role already adequately filled by Google's Android itself. But there isn't a Facebook phone, nor any reason to have one, despite what the blogosphere might think. ®

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