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Facebook's Big News Better Be Worthy of the Buzz

By Erika Morphy
Oct 5, 2010 1:51 PM PT

Facebook is holding an invitation-only press event on Wednesday. The brief announcement -- that is, the prelude to the actual event -- has thrown the social media and blogosphere rumor mills into overdrive. What, the burning question is, will Facebook announce?

Facebook's Big News Better Be Worthy of the Buzz

Much of the speculation has centered around the phone that it allegedly is developing. If not a phone, this school of thought says, then a new, deeper level of integration with mobile devices. There are a host of other theories as well, that range from another hundred million dollar donation to charity to a new email service.

Whatever the announcement is, it had better be very significant, Dan Olds of Gabriel Consulting told TechNewsWorld. "There is nothing worse than a tech company of Facebook's stature acting coy to build up buzz and then making some everyday-type announcement."

Facebook Mobile

If the announcement has something to do with a phone, as the consensus appears to be, then Olds has little to worry about. Facebook making a play for the mobile space will be big news indeed.

Rumors of a pending Facebook push into mobile have been circulating for weeks now. One variation of this theme is that Facebook is actually building a phone in partnership with a manufacturer.

Another is that Facebook and Skype are partnering, with plans to integrate a number of functions to enhance the user experience. Users would be able to call and SMS Facebook friends from Skype and video chat from Facebook.

A deep integration with other smartphone platforms make more sense than actually building a device, said Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group.

"A standalone phone or one purely focused on the power of social networking is a risky bet, as these devices have not had much of a track record," she told TechNewsWorld.

Wednesday's announcement might be a deeper integration with Skype, she said.

Another twist to this theory is the integration of Places into whatever mobile strategy Facebook is planning, said Evan Bailyn, founder of First Page Sage. "I think whatever they are planning to introduce will be along those lines -- it will be some kind of process to make it easier to use Places, and a Facebook phone would be a natural way to do that."

That linkage could mean Facebook will start collecting a new wave of data about users: where they are and what they are doing, Bailyn said. "A phone could integrate all of that."

It may be that Facebook is developing a proof-of-concept phone, Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, told TechNewsWorld.

It would be something akin to what Google tried to do with the Nexus One, he said. "I think it will be a prototype of a device that it hopes other manufacturers will build."

Guesses Flying

Besides the theories on Facebook's mobile initiative -- whatever form it may take -- speculation about what Wednesday's conference may have in store includes the following:

  • a redesign of its core features;
  • its own Facebook email system;
  • another multimillion dollar donation -- or some sort of formal charity strategy;
  • a dislike button;
  • an official iPad app;
  • a broader launch of its Credits service;
  • a platform specifically for the Events product;
  • an upgrade to Facebook Pages;
  • something entirely new and unimagined.

For Facebook's sake, it had better be the latter, said Paul Levinson, head of the communications department at Fordham University.

Unfortunately for the company, at this point in the rumor-hype cycle, "anything short of the sale of Facebook to Google, or purchase of Twitter by Facebook, will be anticlimactic," he told TechNewsWorld.

"Better integration into mobile, increased privacy controls, response to The Social Network movie -- have all been heard before. Even a Facebook phone would not be Earth-shattering -- we've already been that route through the highly successful Android," Levinson said.

There is one other possibility that has not been discussed but that does have Earth-shattering potential: Facebook announces it will charge for access. "But that's never going to happen," he said.

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