MENLO PARK -- Continuing its push to capture the hearts and minds of smartphone users, Facebook is holding a launch event next week to show off what it calls "our new home on Android."
While the company is keeping a lid on details, industry speculation is focused on the prospect that Facebook will unveil a new smartphone that has Facebook's interface built on top of the Android operating system.
Citing unnamed sources, the industry blog Tech Crunch said Facebook has created a modified version of Android for a new phone built by the hardware-maker HTC. It reportedly will display a version of the user's Facebook page on the phone's home screen when it's
turned on. Other Facebook services, such as programs for sharing photos and sending messages, may be built into the phone as its default applications.
The idea is to make it easier for the phones' users to spend more time on Facebook, since they won't have to go to the trouble of finding a Facebook app or logging in when they want to use Facebook's services.
Facebook has long been rumored to be working on developing its own smartphone, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said he doesn't want to build hardware or create a Facebook operating system that would compete with Apple's (AAPL) iOS and Google's (GOOG) Android software. Instead, he has talked about integrating Facebook features into different operating systems, in order to make them available to the widest audience of users.
Google lets other companies use its Android software without charge, in a strategy aimed at encouraging consumers to use Google's other online services. But the software is distributed under an open-source license that allows companies to make their own modifications. Amazon, for example, uses its version of Android in its Kindle tablets.
Facebook has also worked with Apple to integrate the Facebook app into the latest version of the popular iPhone. But Android is the most widely used operating system in the world, and Facebook may be hoping to use the HTC phone as a model for other manufacturers to build more Facebook features into their Android phones.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.
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