Facebook Appoints A New Head Of Mobile Developer Relations

If you had any doubt about Facebook’s ambitions in mobile, here’s another move that underscores the social network’s priorities. It has hired a new mobile head of developer relations, James Pearce.

Pearce’s current job is overseeing developer relations at Sencha, a software house that has most notably created frameworks to build web apps that look like native apps on mobile devices. His last day is today before embarking on a six-week “bootcamp” at Facebook, according to blog post from Pearce himself.

Facebook has put a strong emphasis on HTML5 development, alongside its work in native apps, so hiring someone with expertise in that area — and crucially working with developers focussed on it — makes quite a lot of sense.

Pearce will be joining Doug Purdy, who joined Facebook from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) a year ago to run developer relations for the Facebook platform overall. It looks like Pearce might be taking up a newly-created role by focusing on mobile developers.

Facebook’s move to ramp up its presence with mobile developers points to how the company will be expanding its mobile presence in the year ahead. It follows on from unconfirmed reports of a Facebook phone in development with HTC — codenamed “Buffy” — a device that takes existing Facebook integration one step further and makes it the main platform for all device activity, including calls, applications and content browsing.

Some have suggested that the interface for the phone will look a lot like Facebook’s app for the iPhone.

Regardless of whether or not that device actually materializes, Facebook already has a substantial presence on mobile devices, with hundreds of millions of users across smartphones, feature phones, and tablets and is expanding the functionality of those services on it every day, now allowing users to play games and use other services as well as the mainstay of photo uploads and status updates.

Meanwhile, there are a host of new apps that are coming along that integrate with Facebook but also potentially could be competitors: Their existence raises questions of whether there are social networks besides Facebook that make better use of mobile devices as a way of sharing one’s ‘life graph’ with others. (The new version of Path, for example, created by ex-Facebooker Dave Morin, among others, could be one contender; the re-vamped Color app could be another.)

Building up Facebook’s mobile developer ecosystem is one way of making sure people keep coming back to Facebook for more.