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Why Facebook Home and tablets are a horrific combination for the enterprise

by Don Reisinger

April 21 2013

TabTimes columnist Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology writer whose work has appeared in CNet, eWeek and other publications. His column runs every other week on Sundays.


Facebook Home is supposed to be the next-generation in the way we interact with mobile devices. That is, if you actually believe what the world’s largest social network has to say.

Released earlier this month, Facebook Home is a kind of social media app launcher that sits on top of the Android software already installed on a given device. With Facebook Home running, the social network’s users can do everything from see the latest photos added by friends to update their Timeline, all without having to go to Facebook's site or launch the dedicated Facebook app. 

Facebook Home is essentially the way the most popular social network envisions taking over your smartphone.

Excitement surrounding the announcement of Facebook Home was high, and there was immediate speculation as to when it will make its way to the iPhone.

But lost amid that discussion was tablets. And for many enterprise IT decision-makers, it’s the impact Facebook Home might have on tablets that scares them most.


Tablets have quickly become usable complements, and in some cases, alternatives, to the notebooks companies were previously deploying to employees. Armed with iPads or high-end Android tablets, corporate employees now have the ability to get all of their work done from slates without worrying about lugging around a notebook.

And since many large firms build proprietary apps for their devices, tablets are becoming increasingly important.

But there’s another side to this that can’t be overlooked. As useful as tablets are, they’re expensive if you look at them as something a company has to buy and support on top of the notebooks it already has and will continue to buy.

Whether you think the economy is in trouble or in the middle of a turnaround, IT budgets are still generally tight. That has helped dramatically boost the so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) craze that has swept the world.

In November, Juniper Research revealed in a study that 150 million consumer devices, including smartphones and tablets, were used globally in the enterprise last year. By 2014, that number will soar to 350 million. Two key components in that are restrained budgets and the popularity of tablets as useful corporate devices.

But as any CIO or IT executive knows, BYOD brings along its own string of challenges. How can a company that doesn’t own a device ensure that it has all of the security features it needs? What’s worse, how does a company force an employee to do what the firm wants and not what that employee wants when using their own device? It’s a challenge that many companies have yet to fully address.

Facebook Home's new address, tablets

And here comes Facebook Home. For now, Facebook’s platform only works with Android-based smartphones. However, during a recent conversation at the AllThingsD Dive Into Mobile conference in New York City, Facebook Chief Technology Officer and VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer said that his company has already started testing Home on tablets, adding that “it’s a great experience.”

That might just be the worst news ever for CIOs and other IT executives.

If all goes as expected, it won’t be long before employees come into the office with Facebook Home installed and companies have no choice but to play ball.

But “play ball” is something that companies don’t like to do. In fact, it’s the kind of thing that drives CIOs and other IT executives nuts. The very thought of having to allow employees into the office with devices that are specifically designed to reduce productivity is anathema to CIOs.

And as well it should be.

So, how would the enterprise control such behavior? It’s impossible to know. For now, Facebook hasn’t said how Home can be limited in its scope, and since many employees are already using their personal tablets, companies would have a difficult time saying they couldn’t install Home onto their devices.

So don’t be surprised if that guy or gal “working” so intently on their tablet, is really focused on status updates and “chat heads” with friends.

Some companies ban or put limits on social media and there are other ways to minimize it’s productivity-sucking effects like setting specific performance goals with consequences for those who can’t meet them, i.e. you play you pay.

To consumers, Facebook Home is fun and games. To the corporate world, Facebook Home is one big, bad productivity killer. And since many more malicious hackers are targeting companies through social networks, it might also become a security concern.

In sum, Facebook Home on tablets is, in my opinion, an advance the enterprise can do without. 

TabTimes columnist Don Reisinger is a New York-based technology writer whose work has appeared in CNet, eWeek and other publications. His column runs every other week on Sundays.
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