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Zuckerberg Unveils Facebook's Mobile Upgrades

Wednesday, 3 Nov 2010 | 2:45 PM ET

When Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at Facebook for a secret mobile announcement he didn't hesitate to squash the rumor that Facebook is building a phone. Zuckerberg simply said: NO.

Instead, Facebook wants to make any phone a social environment, no matter what the platform.

Today's announcements are about making it easier to access Facebook and richer local data, from any mobile platform. Zuckerberg says it comes down to this: you can re-think any product to make it social. You can re-make whole industries. Now Facebook's mobile community is huge: 200 million people use its mobile apps, triple the number a year ago.

Facebook
Loic Venance | AFP | Getty Images
Facebook

In the spotlight: Facebook's new mobile "single sign on" —logging into Facebook will automatically sign you in to other social services around the web, like Groupon or Yelp.

The idea is that signing on wastes a lot of time, and involves remembering various passwords.

The theory: the easier it is to log in, the more consumers will use all their services from the mobile platform.

Loopt founder Sam Altman came on stage to explain how it's integrating with Facebook places, saying "We believe data wants to be unified." Whether or not it does, will be up for Facebook users to decide. But this certainly makes sense from Facebook's perspective.

What about privacy concerns? Third parties disclosing your location? Facebook, which has come under its fair share of scrutiny for privacy violations, says that this is opt in, and you can opt-out of any company knowing where you are. Facebook will certainly face more questions on this, but it says this is no different than its current privacy standards.

Facebook is building a DEALS platform for stores to lure in Facebook users nearby.

The company outlined its new system to make it easy for companies to create and offer deals to mobile users. The idea is that companies will be able to offer deals to existing customers and attract more customers, as Facebook users post their deals to their Facebook page or share with their friends.

While this seems like it could compete with Groupon, Facebook brought Groupon on stage to explain how they're partnering, saying "Mobile apps are a great way to improve the relationship between the consumer and the business."

The question here is: will this eliminate the need for Groupon?

Facebook paraded a range of partners. Some are obvious allies for the deals platform: Groupon and Yelp. Some big advertising partners: Gap, Chipotle, 24 Hour fitness. They're also opening it up to 20,000 small and medium size businesses.

This is a NATURAL driver for advertising - companies can buy ads to direct users to their deals, which would in turn grow their 'fan' base.

More nuts and bolts: Facebook is updating "Places" in its iPhone app , it's improving "tagging," it's refreshing its Android app , which it expects to give the platform a big group. Facebook will give developers access to its full set of "Facebook Places" API. No iPad app announcement: Zuckerberg says "iPad is not mobile."

Here is the link to Facebook's announcement re: Making Mobile More Social.

And here is Facebook's announcement re: Introducing Deals

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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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.