Facebook has something big up its sleeve planned for April 4th. In an invitation it sent to the press, the company invites us to “come see our new home on Android.” While it’s not immediately clear what the “new home” will be, it’s possible that the company could be taking the wraps off a long-rumored HTC handset featuring its own customized version of the open source OS.
If a July Bloomberg report is to be believed, the project has been in work for some time, originally slated for a 2012 release, but eventually pushed back to make way for HTC's other product releases. While the companies' previous collaboration, the HTC ChaCha, failed to find an audience, 9to5Google reports that the pair is hard at work on a major ad campaign "designed to focus on the potential user of the device, not on the hardware or software."
It's anyone's guess what kind of deep integration Facebook might have planned for its own platform, but we know that it's already begun pushing updates to its existing Android app outside of Google Play's own distribution mechanism in order to test new features on the platform.
Zuckerberg insisted that the company was not working on co-branded hardware
Last summer, when rumors were heating up about a possible Facebook-HTC collaboration, CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that the company was not working on co-branded hardware, saying that it "really wouldn't make much sense." Instead, he pointed to deeper integration with mobile platforms like the built-in sharing tools in iOS 6. Since that time, Facebook has expanded its mobile service to include free voice calling over Wi-Fi and cellular, and the company has even announced plans to offer free and discounted data for people using its apps on European carriers.
On the surface, it seems like Facebook potentially has a lot to bring to its own platform, and Amazon's Kindle Fire model shows that it's possible to build success outside the Google-stewarded Android mainstream. Hopefully, next week, we'll see whether the company's new "Android home" is worth moving into.
Update: The "home" in the invitation could be a reference to the home screen. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is working on an Android app that displays information from your Facebook account on your home screen, in an effort to increase the total amount of time that people spend interacting with its service. The app will reportedly make its debut on an HTC device, but could be ported to other phones in the future, provided manufacturers make certain tweaks to their software to give Facebook the necessary hooks.