The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 4, 2013

Facebook to unveil phone with Google's Android software

Big step to re-engineer itself

SAN FRANCISCO —

Get ready for the Facebook phone.

The company is close to unveiling a smartphone whose software keeps the social network front and center. It is part of an overall strategy to advance Facebook’s ambitions to dominate mobile devices the way it has desktop computers.

Facebook Inc. has scheduled a news conference Thursday at its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters to show off an HTC smartphone that operates on software called Facebook Home. The social network’s News Feed, messaging, photo uploading and other features will be integrated into the phone, according to reports.

It will be the biggest step yet to re-engineer Facebook into a mobile company. Like Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. before it, Facebook is putting a device into people’s hands that is designed to tether them to the service.

“Rather than have Facebook be one of the myriad apps people use on their phones, [it’s] trying to elevate Facebook to a higher level,” Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said. “Whether it’s the pictures you share, the messages you send or the conversations you have over voice or video, Facebook wants to be the primary conduit for those connections. You can’t do that at the app level.”

Facebook is under heavy pressure to capture — and keep — the attention of users who are spending more time than ever on mobile devices so that it can cash in on mobile advertising. And that has forced the giant social network to attempt the most dramatic transformation in its history.

For years Facebook was focused on growing its reach to desktop users, and did not rank its mobile business as a high priority. The company put relatively little effort into applications for Apple’s iPhones or iPads, with users frequently complaining that the software was buggy and sluggish.

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