Facebook Looking at Opera Acquisition, Smartphone: Report

To better compete with Google and Apple, Facebook may be entering the smartphone business and snapping up Opera Software.

Two rumors related to the social networking behemoth Facebook surfaced over the weekend, one relating to its potential acquisition of the Web browser firm Opera and one from a report in The New York Times that suggested Facebook is still working on a smartphone of its own to challenge Samsung, Apple and Google€™s Android devices.

The Times report quoted unnamed Facebook employees and people who had been informed of Facebook€™s plans as saying the company hopes to have the phone out by next year, and has recruited engineers from Apple to help with the project€”Facebook€™s third attempt at building its own smartphone, according to the report. Now that Facebook is a public company, its investors will be looking for ways to grow the site€™s revenues, particularly in the wake of a much-lauded but somewhat embarrassing IPO event last week. €œ[CEO Mark Zuckerberg] 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 quoted in the report said.

€œBuilding isn€™t something you can just jump into,€ Hugo Fiennes, the founder of hardware company Electric Imp who previously helped Apple build the hardware for the first four iPhones, told the Times. €œYou 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. Going into the phone business is incredibly complex.€

In other Facebook rumors, technology blog Pocket-lint reported Facebook is eyeing up an acquisition of Web browsing specialist Opera Software, according to an unnamed source described as €œour man in the know.€ The move would give Facebook an underlying browser architecture, including a mobile platform, without having to build one from scratch. A Facebook-powered search engine would put the company into greater competition with Google and its Chrome browser as well as Apple€™s Safari browser and Microsoft€™s Internet Explorer (IE) offering.

Chrome squeaked ahead of IE for the full week of May 14 through 20, making it the world€™s most popular browser for a full week for the first time, according to data from StatCounter. Mozilla€™s Firefox browser, Safari and Opera have more or less all held steady since January, with Firefox near the 24 percent mark, Safari around 7 percent and Opera nearer to 1 percent. According to an April report from measurement firm Net Applications, Safari continued to dominate the mobile market, grabbing 60.54 percent of market share in March, compared with 18.3 percent for Android browser and 15.39 percent for Opera Mini.