Is Facebook Moving Into Personal Computers?

There are very few reasons a company would ever want to create its own operating system. The most obvious one is that the company making the system intends to create devices that would use it, and there are very few devices that require their own OS. When it comes to computers, the established players are Windows, with Linux running a very distant second. When it comes to tablets and mobile phones, the biggest names in the game are Google’s Android system and Apple with iOS. It would take an absolutely huge name to disrupt the status quo in any of those areas, but one is about to give it a try: Facebook.

We’ve been here before, of course. Facebook, whilst hardly a business startup, attempted to develop its own OS when it partnered with HTC to release a phone back in 2013. If you were around and following tech news at the time, you might recall that it was a complete and total disaster in just about every way possible. For a start, it wasn’t really a unique operating system – it was just an offshoot of Android that Facebook had amended to suit its purposes better. In this case, its purposes were plastering Facebook news feeds all over the screen, and getting in the way of any functionality that might have made the phone useful. The phone was quickly scrapped, and so was the failed Facebook OS. After almost seven years, it’s now become apparent that the big blue social media brand is ready to have another go.

As things stand, if they have any desire to get back into the mobile phone market, they aren’t declaring it. Ostensibly, Facebook wants to develop an OS of their own because they’re internally worried about how reliant they are on Google’s Android OS to make their devices run. Both Oculus and Portal run on Android, which means that Google knows more about Facebook’s technology than Facebook really wants them to, and Facebook is at the mercy of any changes or amendments that Google makes to the way that Android works in the future. From a business standpoint, that makes sense, but it would be surprising if Facebook wanted to go to all the trouble of making a brand new OS purely for that reason.

It’s no secret that Facebook is an ambitious company, and would love to get involved in far more streams of business than social media. We’ve seen them branch out into the world of online slots within the past two years. Their High 5 Casino was launched in connection with a well-known American online slots developer, and allows gambling enthusiasts access to hundreds of slots such as Shamans Dream slot without having to visit an external (and arguably better qualified) online slots website to play them. They’ve also launched Facebook Watch and partnered with various entertainment and sports entities to broadcast events directly on Facebook as an alternative to conventional networks.

There are other high-tech Facebook products currently in the pipeline. By their own admission, they’re working on augmented reality glasses and hoping to succeed where Google Glass failed. They’ve also taken note of how popular Google Dot and Amazon Alexa have become, and have their own Bluetooth voice assistant in development, too. It may be that they’ve missed the boat on that trend given how many people already have Google and Amazon devices in their homes, but that will depend on the qualities and capabilities of Facebook’s offering.

Given that we know that Facebook is branching out into so many different areas of software, hardware, and technology, it wouldn’t be cynical to suggest that they have desires on other markets. Just because they tried and failed to get their own line of mobile phones off the ground before doesn’t mean they won’t come back and try again. Given the billions of dollars each year that are spent on smartphones, even if they could only corner ten percent of the market, it would likely be a worthwhile exercise for them.

This article isn’t about the possibility of Facebook returning to old ground with mobile phones, though. It’s about the likelihood of Facebook finally doing what many people have been expecting them to do for years, and launching their own range of laptops and tablets. A fully functional OS would allow them to create unique computers that wouldn’t resemble anything else on the market. Presumably, any such devices would come pre-installed with all Facebook’s relevant software, including Portal. We’re visualizing something similar to the Google Chromebook, but with more emphasis on the social media aspect.

At this stage, we don’t have any direct evidence that Facebook is working on a range of computers of their very own, but it seems odd to us that they would develop a fully functional OS if they had no intended purpose for it other than to use it on Oculus and Portal. Both devices are of good quality, but they’re not enormously popular and work fine with the current Android software they depend upon. There aren’t enough Oculus and Portal users in the world for Facebook to justify spending what would presumably be a significant investment in terms of money and working hours on developing a new OS purely for them.

Once Facebook has an OS that they’re happy with, we expect to see them attempt to get the most use out of it that they possibly can. That means Facebook phones, Facebook laptops, and Facebook tablets may be coming to an electronics store or website near you in the not-too-distant future. There’s almost certainly a market out there for people who don’t use their computers or phones for anything more than Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and all three are Facebook properties. If a device could be created that somehow offered a superior experience using the three apps than users could get elsewhere, that would almost certainly make it a viable and popular product. Could the established players be set for a shakeup? We suspect that Microsoft isn’t too worried about an existential threat to Windows just yet, but they’ll be keeping a very close eye on anything Mark Zuckerberg’s company comes up with. 

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