Whether Facebook actually introduces its own branded smartphone in 2011 or not, mobile is likely to be a growing focus for the company next year. With more than 200 million people already connecting to Facebook via mobile in some fashion, the audience obviously is already there. As in its early stages on the PC-based Web, Facebook isn't intent on slapping up ads across its fast-expanding mobile real state.
The launch of its Deals service in November for merchants to promote local offers and discounts on mobile devices signaled a move toward mobile advertising, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated that the company is in no hurry to roll out a full-fledged mobile ad product.
"We only want to launch stuff that we think is really good," he told Reuters last month.
Nevertheless, Facebook is laying the groundwork for a bigger push into mobile in 2011 which is reflected in recent job openings highlighted this week by Inside Facebook. Among the latest is head of mobile partnerships, listed within its platform and product marketing group.
The position calls for someone "to build and manage a high performance team, develop and enhance successful partnerships and influence internal and external partners and industry stakeholders in the mobile industry." It appears to be geared toward overseeing Facebook's efforts to extend its third-party app ecosystem -- including its relationship with companies like game maker Zynga -- from the desktop Web to mobile devices.
In that vein, the position will involve developing and driving "our mobile partner strategy to support the continued growth and success of our partners and social mobile applications built on Facebook Platform." The job requires 10 years mobile experience, including 5 years of related partner or partner-facing experience.
Facebook is also hiring for the position of mobile program manager to "build and manage programs and projects to deploy mobile services, server side or client applications with partners such as OS, OEMs and mobile operators." The listing indicates that the company is hiring for both senior and junior positions under that title to focus on different smartphone platforms (i.e., iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) or mobile services like SMS and mobile Web sites.
The job also entails exploring new business opportunities and ensuring that "Facebook's mobile services satisfy user needs in various countries for varying device/operator combinations." It requires at least three years of product or technical experience in mobile, and for senior-level candidates, six or more years.
Earlier this year, when rumors about a "Facebook phone" began circulating online, Zuckerberg denied that the company was building its own device to rival the iPhone or Android-based phones. But he conceded that the company was creating a customized version of Facebook for mobile phones based on Google's Android mobile platform. But one way or another, there's little doubt that Facebook will have a major presence on mobile phones.