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Facebook Phone Announcement: What to Expect

Monday, 1 Apr 2013 | 3:58 PM ET
Facebook's New OS for Android Phones
Monday, 1 Apr 2013 | 11:29 AM ET
Facebook is expected to unveil new operating system for the android phone, reports CNBC's Julia Boorstin.

On Thursday, Facebook is hosting a big event to unveil its "new home on Android."

What does that mean? We expect to see a new Facebook operating system for Google's Android phone, which the social network will showcase on an HTC handset. Sources said it will effectively give users the option of making Facebook your phone's home screen of sorts.

It makes sense that Facebook is doubling down on mobile: It wants users to spend more time not just with its core social network, but also with its other mobile services, including texting, voice calling, and email. And though it hasn't launched Graph Search yet on mobile devices, it will eventually, and that'll provide another mobile revenue opportunity.

Over 680 million people use Facebook on mobile devices every month. Even Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged that one of his biggest challenges is figuring out how to make as much money from those mobile users as it makes from user on the desktop.

(Read More: Facebook Feels Hot Breath of New Apps on Its Neck)

However, the big question for this mobile operating system is how many people will want to use Facebook for all their mobile communication. That will determine just how much Thursday's announcement could boost Facebook's revenue.

Joel Saget | AFP | Getty Images

Analysts are reserving judgment until they hear the announcement, but the consensus seems to be that the upshot will be positive if Facebook can drive user engagement on mobile devices.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter commends Facebook for embracing the fact that people are spending more time on mobile devices, and for taking steps to address the fact that the company's mobile revenue is lagging its desktop revenue.

"It's not just for the user experience, but so they can efficiently deliver ads," he said.

(Read More: Facebook's Rebound: What Drove the Stock Higher)

Stern Agee's Arvind Bhatia also praised Facebook for taking steps to better target ads with mobile information.

"It's a major announcement for Facebook and should be a needle-mover over time," Bhatia said. "Deeper integration with the Android system should boost user engagement and monetization."

However, Facebook bear, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield is skeptical. He cautioned that "the world has appified over the last several years on mobile devices." What that means is the fact that consumers are accustomed to going to different apps for different services and as Greenfield puts it "everything Is just a click away." So he wonders if people will want to go to Facebook to do a number of different things.

(Read More: Facebook May Know More Than You Revealed)

What does this mean for Google's Android?

If Facebook's new software is a hit, it could help sell more Android devices, giving Google an advantage over Apple. But over the long term, if Facebook can lure users to utilize its graph search tool, that could potentially eat into Google's search market share over time. But for now, especially since graph search hasn't launched on mobile yet, there's no near-term threat.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.