Handset’s tweaked app spells good news for FB

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Handset’s tweaked app spells good news for FB

Facebook posted a record gain after Apple debuted the iPhone 5 with tighter integration for the social network, enabling voice-activated posts and photo sharing.

Facebook shares increased 7.7 percent to $20.93 at the close in New York yesterday. Its prominence on the iPhone 5, which debuted on Wednesday in California, bolstered efforts by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to allay concerns over Facebook’s ability to generate sales from users who increasingly socialize via handheld devices. The stock has plunged 45 percent since an initial public offering on May 17.

“Now we are a mobile company,” Zuckerberg said in an on-stage interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco this week, his first since Facebook’s IPO.

“Over the next three to five years, I think the biggest question that is on everyone’s minds, that will determine our performance over that period, is really how well we do with mobile.”

Integration with the iPhone, the world’s best-selling handset, offers some evidence that Facebook’s mobile push can work, said Mark Harding, an analyst at JMP Securities in San Francisco. “Investors feel more confident that Zuckerberg is now focused on mobile and focused on monetizing mobile.”

Zuckerberg “struck an upbeat tone,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in San Francisco. “Clearly, from his words, they are making progress in mobile.”

Zuckerberg, who appeared at ease while trading laughs with his interviewer, for the first time elaborated on technical struggles that have impeded Menlo Park, California-based Facebook from creating a user- and advertiser-friendly mobile application. The company spent too long trying to build mobile products using a programming language known as HTML5, Zuckerberg said.

“The biggest mistake we’ve made as a company is betting too much on HTML5,” he said.

Facebook is lessening its reliance on the tools, and it has built an application better tailored for Apples mobile software, Zuckerberg said. It’s also working on an application for Google’s Android system. New features will be available to the mobile service in the coming weeks and months, he said.

Based on the amount of time users spend on mobile, the company should make “a lot more money” via wireless devices than through desktops, Zuckerberg said.

Mobile users also tend to be more interactive than desktop users, he said.

“It makes perfect sense to us that more people have mobile phones so there is a far larger universe of potential Facebook users and it is much easier to check Facebook mobile regularly,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG in New York, in a research report.


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