Facebook smartphone?

Facebook smartphone?Facebook already rules the Internet, but can it rule the smartphone world with its own mobile device?

According to the New York Times, employees engineers of the social network say the company “hopes” to release its own smartphone by next year.

The unnamed sources say Facebook has already hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad.

Details, however, were unknown at press time.

When asked about the rumors last week, Facebook did not deny or confirm that a project to build a smartphone existed, but pointed to a previous statement it gave to AllThingsD last year that said in part, “We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.”

This would be Facebook’s third effort at building a smartphone, one of the sources told the paper. In 2010, TechCrunch.com reported that Facebook was working on a smartphone. However, the project fell apart after the company realized the difficulties involved.

AllThingsD.com reported last year that Facebook and HTC had entered a partnership to create a smartphone, code-named “Buffy,” which is still in the works. Details about this project were also unknown.

Experts say Facebook’s motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.

“Mark is worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms,” a Facebook employee said.

The project is being kept top secret though. Instead of posting job listing, they are looking for talent directly.

Stay tuned…