May 29, 2012 at 1:34 PM ET
You've heard it before, but this time it may come to fruition: Facebook is working on its own phone.
Why would it be different this time than in the past, when such an effort was reported, although denied by the social networking giant?
There are at least a few reasons: Google, definitely not Facebook's BFF, recently completed the purchase of Motorola Mobility; and ahead of Facebook's recent IPO, the company acknowledged that mobile is a key area in which it needs to grow, with more and more Facebook users accessing the site via mobile than on computers. And right now, the social network has not pushed advertising — its key revenue source — onto mobile. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg contends that will change, saying recently that transforming its mobile and advertising experience are top priorities in 2012.
"We don't comment on rumor and speculation," said a Facebook spokeswoman when asked for comment by msnbc.com about the Facebook phone. But, she added, "Our mobile strategy is simple: 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 to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world."
Of additional interest: Facebook is also looking at buying Opera, the mobile Web browser prized for its efficiency. In a report Tuesday, Reuters quoted Arctic Securities as saying such an acquisition would "enhance the now limited mobile experience of Facebook, improve Facebook's mobile monetization problem, help Facebook retain online game developers leaving the social network over the lack of a mobile platform and further improve Facebook's ability to target ads."
Facebook also recently announced plans to open its own app store.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that "people briefed on Facebook's plans" say the company "hopes to release its own smartphone by next year. These people spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their employment or relationships with Facebook."
Facebook has "already hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad, the employees and those briefed on the plans said."
Last year, HTC released what was described as a Facebook phone, with a dedicated hard-key button for Facebook on it. The phone, called the Status, never took the market by storm like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy or Motorola Droid models.