A mockup of a Facebook phone, looking a lot like an HTC phone. Michal Bonikowski, www.mindsailors.com
Facebook has sent out an invitation to the media with the tantalising offer: "come see our new home on Android".
Could the event, to be held April 4 at Facebook's headquarters in California, be launch of the mythical Facebook phone? Will it just be the launch of another phone with a Facebook button, like the ill-starred HTC Facebook phones? Or it is merely some software to pimp out an Android phone you already own?
Only time will tell - and not much time at that, just a few days now - but that hasn't stopped the chattering class from speculating.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the latter will be the case: it's just some new software that "displays content from users' Facebook accounts on a smartphone's home screen - the first screen visible when they turn on the device".
Citing anonymous people "familiar with the situation", the WSJ said HTC will get the first bite at the new homescreen, which (needless to say) is designed to boost Facebook's advertising revenues. (Isn't everything on Facebook designed to do that?)
After HTC, other Android manufacturers will be able to release the software, but only after they've tweaked the Android already running on the devices, to allow Facebook to take over.
That would make the phones not very different from the mythical Facebook phone, except that it would come at little or no cost or risk to the user, who could presumably just un-pimp their phone if they didn't like the result, and it would come at little cost or risk to Facebook itself.
TechCrunch, one of the first websites to report on the Facebook invitation, went a little bit further than the Wall Street Journal, speculating that the touted "home on Android" would in fact be a new "flavour" of Android, with a new homescreen as well as "all sorts of extra Facebook functionality built in".
"Rumors we've heard say that the project could actually be called 'Facebook Home', and its hallmark would be a heavily Facebook-ified mobile phone home screen," TechCrunch reported.
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