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Facebook ninjas scale wall, pluck iPhone techies from Apple's garden

Social network boosts hardware skills as Zuck mulls Facebook phone

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Facebook has apparently hired in more than six iPhone and iPad engineers who could well be the social network's team for a Facebook smartphone, the The New York Times reports.

Facebook privately cherry-picked the Apple employees rather than posting jobs openly, say the NYT's unnamed sources. Over six hardware and software engineers have been lured in from Cupertino – one from the iPad design crew and the rest from the iPhone team – with the intention of having a working Facebook phone out by the end of the year, the NYT says.

Facebook has refused to confirm or deny the claim. A spokeswoman simply reiterated Facebook's mobile strategy: "We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We're working across the entire mobile industry, with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers."

Facebook mobile ops post opens...

Though there are no traces of the engineering jobs online, we do note that Facebook posted a "Head of Mobile Operations" job at its Menlo Park office three days ago. It's an Ops job, not a technical one, but the requirements section drops a few hints that could confirm the NYT report. Two of the requirements listed are:

  • Specify requirements for the technological systems and tools required to support the Mobile operations strategy; and
  • Partner with the engineering teams to build required tools and systems.

Facebook's previous attempts at phone hardware – including an ongoing collaboration with HTC on a handset named Buffy – have not produced any devices, with Facebook reportedly stalling over the difficulties of getting into manufacturing.

But the social network is keen to push deeper into mobile, says the NYT's insider. Apparently Zuckerberg does not want Facebook to be simply an app on other companies' platforms, especially if its relationships with Google and Apple become sticky.

Simpler options for Facebook would include buying out a handset manufacturer – as Google has done with Motorola – or tying up with a hardware partner, as Microsoft has done with Nokia.

By hiring in seasoned pros from Apple, Facebook is saving itself some time on the business of selection. Hardware engineer posts are coveted at Apple, and the selection process there is rigorous. According to anonymous reports on the jobs report site Glassdoor, prospective engineers face panel interviews of up to 15 people. One guy who got a job in hardware engineering there in 2010 reported:

The on-site interview consisted of 15 people 1:1, each of them has 30 mins, from 10am to 6pm non-stop with a lunch interview in 12. Each interviewer has a different background so their questions could be very hard at some times. […] You can imagine like 15 guys ask you a question from every side of technical background. You would probably need 3 PhDs to answer them all correctly.

Another 2010 hire reported being quizzed over analogue hardware and asked to explain the operation of the wind-noise rejection filter.

We have asked Apple for a comment. ®

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