updated 07:09 am EDT, Mon April 1, 2013
Facebook phone expected to fork Android, point to Facebook
The HTC Facebook phone may feature a deeply forked version of Android, similar to what Amazon has done with the version of Android that runs on its Kindle Fire line-up. "It's putting Facebook first," a person familiar with the social network's plans told the Wall Street Journal. The forked version of Android running on Amazon's Kindle range eliminates direct ties to Google and its Play Store in favor of Amazon's own content.
Facebook already has a number of apps that it will be able to preload on its own Android device, although it is expected that it will go much deeper with its integration than simply placing apps on device with Facebook branding. It had previously attempted Facebook integration in an Android phone with HTC's Cha Cha and Salsa handsets, but these were limited to quick sharing photos and other posts directly to Facebook. The company has also been pushing its own staff to switch to Android over iOS since late last year, in further evidence of its long term plans for the platform.
While the new handset, codenamed 'Myst,' will also include this level of functionality, the new device is expected to center on a home screen that is dedicated to Facebook and Facebook feeds. The HTC One debuted a software feature called Blinkfeed that ties social feeds as well as other news into a live home screen. It is possible that the HTC Facebook phone will incorporate a similar feature, although deliver feeds directly from Facebook only.
A Facebook phone running a deeply integrated version of Android tied closely to its services is expected to be a key pillar in its mobile growth strategy. A reason often cited for Facebook's share collapse following its IPO is that investors are concerned with the social network's ability to monetize its growing base of over 650 million mobile users. Facebook is also in position where it could further leverage its existing HTML 5-based App Center by adding mobile applications for download through its Facebook phone that also incorporate Facebook social tie-ins.
Facebook has issued an invitation inviting the press to a special Android-themed launch event on April 4 where it is expected to reveal the new phone and Android-based operating system that it has co-developed with HTC.