Last month, Facebook silently acquired osmeta. Even though I ‘broke’ this news on Twitter, and emailed a few tech rags about it, no one has picked up on it yet – which is surprising given all the speculation about the Facebook Phone, and Facebook Home.
Using only public information (since I happen to know the founder), here’s why this is significant news.
What osmeta was trying to do
Details are sparse, as is to be expected from a stealth startup, but clues abound.
- ‘osmeta’ – a reference to ‘meta operating system’ – potentially a virtualization technology that allows you to run the same ‘core functionality’ on top of any (potentially mobile) hardware?
- A stellar team, to quote their own words:
Our programming experience is even more impressive—both quantitatively and qualitatively. Between us, over the years, we have done pretty much “everything” in terms of software creation, including several first-in-the-world type of magical things. (Examples: Android, Chrome for Android, Chrome OS, Google Crawling, AdWords, ZooKeeper, BookKeeper, Pig (Hadoop), OSGi, Linux kernel control groups, network and other device drivers, cognitive computing, massive storage systems, unusual file systems, various types of virtualization, video game console emulation, and many, many others.)
- Amit Singh, the founder, is well-known for his penchant for virtualization technologies, and is a well-known Mac OS X author and hacker.
- A tantalizing description of what they’re trying to achieve:
Incredible possibilities, tremendous opportunities—for developers and users of many, many devices everywhere, including devices in cars, airplanes, and consumer electronics.
The most obvious clue that this is all about mobile is this image they post on the bare-bones website.
So, why Facebook? Because Facebook Home > Facebook Phone.
One possibility is that this is a straight-up acquihire. Clearly, the talent behind osmeta is immense – it’s possible they decided to stop doing what they’re doing, and just join Facebook. Wouldn’t be the first time.
The more intriguing possibility is this. What if Facebook decided that, strategically, they need Facebook Home to transcend every mobile device – not just Android. Who would you hire to build such a beast, and how would they go about doing it?
Perhaps what osmeta has built so far lets them spread Facebook Home across this fragmented device ecosystem, quickly, in a scalable fashion, and achieve a consistent, Facebook-centered experience, across all devices?
In other words, why would you build Facebook Phone, if you could have Facebook Home on all phones, tablets and (groan) phablets?
Looking forward to finding out! Knowing Amit, it won’t be long.
– (the other) Amit
Disclaimer: Amit Singh, founder of osmeta, was my classmate when we were studying together at IIT Delhi. However, I have purposely not communicated with him before writing this post, and used only publicly available information to hypothesize and speculate.