Like Larry Page of Google did a few weeks back, Mark Zuckerberg is visiting South Korea, home to some of the largest mobile companies, and increasingly, the place where the big decisions in the mobile industry are being taken. As his Google counterpart did, Zuckerberg met with the country’s president to discuss matters of “creative economy”, and, more importantly, with the top brass of Samsung, the largest smartphone maker in the world.
Sources told the Korea Herald that Mark Zuckerberg asked Samsung’s CEO JK Shin and the group’s heir apparent, Lee Jay-yong, for a Samsung-made “Facebook phone”, probably similar to the HTC First. The report quotes an unnamed “market watcher” who said Facebook is hoping that Samsung would help it improve its position in the increasingly vital mobile market. Moreover, the insider said the social networking giant hopes to be the second Google, and a Facebook-friendly phone from Samsung would help that ambitious goal.
Samsung doesn't want a second Google
Clearly, Facebook realized that it’s going to need more than a half-baked effort like the HTC First and the Facebook Home app, if it wants to successfully transition to a mobile-first company. The HTC First is said to be selling poorly, and there were even rumors about an early cancellation of the project due to low sales. Mark Zuckerberg needs a better partner to crack the problem, and Samsung is in the best position to help.
But is Samsung interested in making a Facebook-friendly phone? The industry experts cited by the Korea Herald believe that “there is no symbolic or monetary significance in such a deal”. In other words, Samsung has nothing to win from such a deal, and moreover, “Samsung doesn’t want to help nurture a second Google, which is now becoming a formidable rival for Samsung in the handset business”. The report says that even the meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and the Samsung leadership is likely to be the result of some intense cajoling on Facebook’s part.
With more users accessing Facebook primarily on their mobile devices, and with the growth of its user base stalling or even reversing in some markets, Mark Zuckerberg’s company needs a successful strategy in mobile like air. It remains to be seen if Samsung is the strong partner that Facebook is looking for.