Speculation that Facebook plans to have another crack at building a smartphone has gathered pace in recent weeks and now The New York Times is in on the act.

The 'paper says that Facebook has already hired half a dozen hardware and software engineers who had previously worked for Apple on the iPhone and one who worked on the iPad.

The report brings word from several Facebook employees and outside engineers, sounded out about possible positions, that the company plans to release the phone "by next year."

The renewed efforts come following the social network's rumoured plans to team up with HTC on a handset and earlier plans that were abandoned in 2010.

Peppered with questions

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has, according to the NYT, taken a particular interest and has been interviewing potential suitors for the project, codenamed "Buffy."

The 'paper says that Zuckerberg spoke to one engineer and "peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones. It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used, he said.

"Another former Apple hardware engineer was recruited by a Facebook executive and was told about the company's hardware explorations."

One Facebook employee told the New York Times, says Zuckerberg is worried that the social network is just an app on other manufacturers' hardware.

Of course, having just (somewhat disastrously) floated on the stock exchange, Facebook is now in a position where it must establish new and increasing revenue streams, so a smartphone may form part of those plans.

Facebook has not commented on the story and the reports says that the company is determined to keep it secret.

Via: New York Times