Facebook rumour round up: Is a phone or new search engine in the offing?

Facebook key

Facebook is holding an event in California later today, where the social networking giant is set to reveal details about a mysterious new offering.

There have been few clues about what the firm is planning to showcase, aside from a short sentence on the event's invitation that asks reporters to "come and see what we're building."

As a result, speculation about what the firm will unveil has been rife, with industry watchers predicting that a new Facebook smartphone, search engine or a revamped mobile site could be in the offing this evening.

A Facebook smartphone would have to offer more than just access to the social networking site.

Here, we take a look at some of the rumours currently doing the rounds ahead of tonight's Facebook launch, and hedge our bets at how likely they are to come off.

IT Pro is going to be bringing you all the news from tonight's event, so make sure you check back later to see whether or not our predictions were right.

Facebook phone

A foray into the mobile device market wouldn't be a massive surprise for Facebook, considering how popular the site is with smartphone and tablet users.

According to figures obtained by analyst Benedict Evans, as of September 2012, around 470 million of the company's 1.07 billion users accessed the social networking site via a Facebook smartphone app.

In total, the company is reported to have 604 million mobile users (which include those that use a browser to view the site), although Evans points out that many of them are likely to use desktop version, too.

In light of these figures, a smartphone might seem like a safe bet, but the device would have to offer more than access to the social networking site to make users switch from their incumbent devices.

Especially in light of how tightly integrated Facebook already is with the photo and messaging capabilities of most smartphones these days.

Further to this, the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly denied reports about bringing a Facebook smartphone to market.

During the firm's first ever earnings call back in July, Zuckerberg said the launch of a Facebook-built phone "wouldn't really make that much sense."

He echoed this sentiment again several months later during a conference in San Francisco, where according to a report in the Daily Telegraph he said the venture is unlikely to attract enough users to make it worthwhile.

Chances: Given Zuckerberg's constant rebuttals, and the challenge the firm will face in trying to get smartphone users to switch to its device, we think the chances of a Facebook phone making its debut tonight are slim.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.