Yes, the insider news is that Facebook is hoping to release its own Smartphone by 2013. It’s also been speculated that Facebook has already hired more than 6 former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone and iPad.

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When asked, Facebook did not deny or confirm that a project to build a Smartphone exist, but pointed their previous statement, which was given last year that- “We’re working across the entire mobile industry-  with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.”

It has been heard that Facebook is trying to great lengths to keep the Smartphone project a big secret by not posting jobs on the company’s job website, but instead searching the right talent by going door-to-door.

Now the next question is: Can Facebook learn how to build hardware? Intermingling the cultures of hardware and software designers is certainly going to be a big challenge, only Apple has been successful in doing so, of course being the rare exception of Apple.

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The big names in consumer electronics such as HP, Dell, Sony etc. have all struggled with phone hardware, and tried and failed. What works well for Facebook at the moment is the amount of cash raised via the IPO. If by any chance, Facebook fails with its own SmartPhone team, it can go ahead and buy a Smartphone maker. Facebook could easily buy an firm such as Research in Motion (RIM), which is valued at less than $6 billion and can easily integrate the Facebook operating system on top of RIM phones.

Of course, Facebook will not be directly challenging the Apple, but it will surely lead a new battle between Facebook and Google. After all, both the companies make their money through advertising on their internet based platforms and both are looking to expand in the mobile/smartphone domain.

So, going by the rumors it is sure expected a great battle between Facebook and Google. For a consumer, of course, it means more choices to pick from!!