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Will IT Nix Facebook Phones?

Miffed that there still isn't a Windows 8/RT app for Facebook nearly six months after the launch of the new operating system, I tried in vain to ignore yesterday's launch of the new so-called Facebook phone. The new smartphone software, dubbed Facebook Home, and the HTC First phone coming next week, takes a forked version of Google's Android and puts the social network front and center.

If Facebook Home gains critical mass, we may become a society of zombies -- though some may argue that's already occurred. Either way, it promises to only make things worse. It remains to be seen whether the software -- downloadable April 12 from the Google Play app store for select Android phones from HTC and Samsung -- will gain critical mass.

"The Android launcher approach allows it to target a huge installed base of hundreds of millions of Android users, which will be a large chunk of Facebook's total user base of more than a billion people," wrote Ovum chief telecom analyst Jan Dawson, in prepared commentary.

Much of the reaction I've seen has given it a thumbs-down. Analyst Jack Gold said in an e-mail to me he predicts only the Facebook diehards will embrace it. "I think this appeals to the 10-20 percent of true junkies," he said. "Others will find it very intrusive."

I agree, though it's the teens and twenty-somethings that will seal its fate either way.

I'd like to think most people don't want Facebook to take over their phones and will be content using the app (that is unless you're a Windows Phone user in which case like those with Windows 8/RT PCs and tablets, you're stuck accessing it via the Web browser or through third-party apps). But if Facebook does what some fear -- offer free phones in exchange for their privacy -- there are suckers who will go for it without batting an eye.

As IT pros, will the potential proliferation of Facebook Home lead to the demise of BYOD? Probably not but it might require a re-thinking of what IT needs to do to recapture employees' attention while on the job. Does this mean invoking policies that ban the use of this software on BYOD-supported devices? Will IT need to put new rules in policy management systems and security software to put the kibosh on Facebook Home?

"I think this will just exacerbate an already big problem in many companies -- mobile anarchy," Gold said. "Companies have to establish some level of governance on devices (many have already). Some user devices just are not acceptable in the corporate environment. If you buy one, don't expect it to get connected to the corporate network or use the apps."

All of these are issues IT may confront if Facebook Home is even a moderate hit. Meanwhile, now that Facebook has finished developing its phone software, how about giving Windows 8 and Windows Phone users an app?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/05/2013 at 1:15 PM


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