Samsung Denies Zuckerberg's Facebook Phone Request - InformationWeek

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6/19/2013
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Samsung Denies Zuckerberg's Facebook Phone Request

Facebook wants to be "the second Google," but Samsung doesn't want to help it get there.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is doing some globetrotting this week and recently met with executives from Samsung. Zuckerberg spoke with Samsung's heir Lee Jay-Yong and mobile phone head Shin Jong-Kyun. The meeting took place only after much cajoling on Facebook's part and was the reason behind Zuckerberg's trip to Korea. It didn't turn out as Zuckerberg hoped.

In the meeting, Zuckerberg asked Samsung to follow in HTC's footsteps and create the next "Facebook phone." He wanted Samsung to create a device that would use Facebook's user interface, likely its Facebook Home launcher. Samsung shot the idea down, according to The Korea Herald. Why? Because Facebook wants to become the second Google.

"Samsung doesn't want to help nurture a second Google, which is now becoming a formidable rival for Samsung in the handset business," said the Herald's source. Google purchased Motorola in 2012 and is preparing to release a wave of new devices, including the Moto X, later this year.

Further, Samsung doesn't see how Facebook could give Samsung any extra value. Facebook does not have the "premium image" with which Samsung would like to associate itself. Partnering with Facebook won't benefit Samsung.

The denial has to sting something fierce.

[ Apple and Samsung continue to duke it out in the mobile arena. See Samsung Galaxy S4 Outsells iPhone 5. ]

Facebook has had a bit of a rough year in the mobile space. In April, it introduced the First, an HTC-made smartphone that shipped with the Facebook Home launcher preinstalled. The First itself was a decent piece of hardware, but it has not sold well. It initially cost $99 on contract, but AT&T was forced to drop the price all the way down to 99 cents to generate any interest in it. Facebook and HTC later decided to delay the planned European launch of the First.

Facebook Home has not gotten much traction, either. Though the First had Home preinstalled, Facebook also offered Home as a separate download to a number of Android smartphones. Though the launcher, which replaces the traditional home screen with Facebook content, was downloaded more than a million times, it was rated poorly and most people stopped using it or uninstalled it not long after downloading it from the Google Play Store.

The company is working to spruce up Facebook Home and make it more customizable. Facebook has already provided some small updates to Home, but has yet to ship the major redesign it committed to doing.

"We've listened to feedback from users on their experience using Home," Facebook said last month. "While many people love it, we've heard a lot of great feedback about how to make Home substantially better. As a result we're focusing the next few months on adding customization features that address the feedback we received."

Fresh off these two flops, Zuckerberg was surely hoping for a different answer from Samsung. Given Facebook's lack of success so far, Samsung's answer shouldn't be all that much of a surprise. It doesn't want any part of the egg currently being worn by Facebook and HTC.

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