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Has HTC become more than just friends with Facebook?


 BANGALORE, INDIA:  Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC unveiled on Tuesday two social networking phone models, with a focus on Facebook access, and introduced its first tablet computer to a crowded marketplace.

Has the Taiwanese handset gadget maker becom more than just friends with Facebook?

Says Nick Dillon, analyst with Ovum “While not officially known as ‘Facebook phones’, HTC’s socially oriented ChaCha and Salsa smartphones certainly raise the bar in terms of mobile implementations of Facebook. It is also somewhat ironic that the devices use Google’s Android platform to enable that experience.

He points out that a dedicated Facebook button on the front of both devices offers much more than a shortcut to a Facebook application – the button is contextually aware, changing function depending on the application the user is currently in. The integration also includes easy access to Facebook Messaging and Chat – functions that could threaten the hegemony of RIM’s wildly popular BlackBerry Messenger in the minds of teens – as well as the promise (not yet delivered) of extending Facebook’s third-party apps to mobile for the first time.“This deeper level of integration could make the mobile experience of Facebook more compelling than other mobile versions of the application and, potentially, even more so than the full web version. This possibility will not have been lost on Facebook, or for that matter Google. It’s hard to imagine Google being overly happy that HTC is using its Android platform to provide an improved experience and greater access to arguably its biggest rival. If Google does ever seek to exert greater control over the Android platform, we would imagine that this could be a trigger point for it", Dillon added.

According to the analyst, either way, HTC and Facebook’s initiative does at least illustrate that there are still opportunities for hardware providers to differentiate themselves outside of offering their own services. Equally, it also demonstrates a compelling means by which web application providers can influence buyer behaviour without needing to own or control the software platform on a device themselves.

“Under the circumstances, it’s inevitable that the ChaCha and Salsa will become known as Facebook phones, even though they are not a result of a joint venture with Facebook but rather a clever outgrowth of a partnership dating back to 2009. But in a very real sense they deserve that tag.”

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