Update: In a statement to Mashable, Facebook denied that it was developing a handset, instead claiming to only be working on ways to more deeply integrate its services into existing manufacturers’ hardware, a la the INQ1. (via: Techmeme and Mashable, thanks ianphone)
Facebook may be developing its own mobile phone, according to TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington, although at this point details are far from solid or complete. According to Arrington, the project is being spearheaded by former Firefox-contributor Joe Hewitt and ex-Google Chrome OS developer Matthew Papakipos, with Hewitt having built Facebook’s iPhone apps until recently. Plans for the rumored project involve Facebook providing the core software component and teaming up with a hardware manufacturer to produce actual handsets.
It’s totally unclear at this point if such a device would be considered a smartphone or a featurephone; on the one hand, Facebook would have an incentive to price these things at the low-end of the market in order to capture teens on tight budgets or boomers intimidated by more mature smartphone platforms. On the other hand, Facebook is all about apps and connectivity, so we’d bet that mobile versions of Farmville and 1,000 other applications and plug-ins would find their way to a Facebook mobile market. Until more information becomes available, we’ll just take a wait-and-see approach on this potentially huge market mover.