Facebook is once again attempting to infiltrate the smartphone arena, and on its third attempt, it has brought in the big guns to make sure there are no bumps in the road this time.
The New York Times reports that Facebook has been actively recruiting engineers and hardware designers to work on building a Facebook-branded smartphone. The company has been extremely secretive about its mobile doings, not posting any openings on its website but rather going door-to-door to find experienced workers.
Citing an anonymous employee, the news source reports that Facebook has had difficulties with smartphone creation in the past because the company initially thought it could figure out how to do it without outside help.
"The company has since learned that it needed to bring in people with phone-making experience," the news source states. "So it is hiring hardware engineers to work with a phone manufacturer and design the shape, style and inner workings of a Facebook phone."
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg allegedly met with one former Apple employee who worked on the iPhone, "peppering" him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones in a way that did not sound like "idle curiosity," notes the media outlet.
There is reason to believe that Facebook's 2011 partnership with HTC on a phone codenamed "Buffy" is still in the works, with a potential 2013 release date. All Things Digital reported last year that the phone is intended to run on a modified version of Android that has been "heavily tweaked" by Facebook to integrate its services, and will support HTML5.
There may be a sense of urgency at Facebook HQ, given the ground it already must make up to catch up with Apple and Microsoft in the smartphone arena, the Times reports. What's more, it may soon have to compete with Google, which recently acquired Motorola Mobility for nearly $13 billion.
"Mark is worried that if he doesn't create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms," a Facebook employee said, as quoted by the media outlet.
However, software companies such as Dell and Hewlett Packard have failed in the past to design smartphones, which doesn't bode well for Facebook.
"Building isn't something you can just jump into," Hugo Fiennes, a former Apple hardware manager for the first four iPhone, tells the news source. "You change the smallest thing on a smartphone and you can completely change how all the antennas work. You don't learn this unless you've been doing it for a while."