Facebook vying for more corporate clients

17.11.2014

Facebook is planning a new platform for businesses. Apple is developing apps for corporate clients. With fewer new users signing up, tech giants are shifting their focus to businesses.

Facebook, the world’s biggest online social media platform, wants to break into the world of internal corporate communications.

According to a report in the Financial Times newspaper, “Facebook at Work” would give employees a means to virtually communicate with one another and collaborate on documents.

Users would reportedly also be able to network with other professionals online. The professional version of Facebook would likely resemble the company’s standard website. But users will be allowed to have separate personal and professional accounts. “Facebook at Work” is said to be in the testing phase with a number of companies.

Taking on its rivals

Offering this kind of service would put Facebook at odds with many of its rivals at once. Among others, Microsoft and Google are already competing to offer businesses a platform for working with documents.

Combining this with the possibility of making professional contacts could put companies like LinkedIn or Xing at risk, not to mention the huge number of providers of specialized communications solutions for businesses.

The impulse for this initiative could be the fact that Facebook, by far the biggest online network with 1.3 billion users, is showing hardly any growth in its private network. Some companies also block Facebook in their offices because they are concerned employees will waste too much work time on the site. Facebook would also have to win the trust of businesses in order to be permitted to save their documents on its servers.

Data Protection: The big hurdle

Facebook is already viewed with suspicion when it comes to data protection and privacy. The US company is currently making a concerted effort to get rid of its bad reputation. Facebook introduced comprehensive encryption following the emergence of the NSA scandal. To date, there have been no successful hacking attempts on its data.

Employees at Facebook’s own offices have long been using the website in a work capacity. According to the Financial Times report, the idea of offering this as a service for other businesses has been in the pipeline for a while. At least initially it will be free, like the current social network. Facebook is financed through advertising – the more time users spend on the website, the more advertisements can be displayed to them.

Apple also competing for business customers

Declining growth rates among private users are also pushing Apple towards corporate clients. According to insiders, Apple is vying for a corporate prescence more aggressively than ever, and could soon get in the way of SAP, Oracle and others. The tech giant is said to have employed a special team to scope out potential customers like Citigroup, the Reuters news agency reported. Apple is said to already be working with around a dozen software development firms with this strategy in mind.

The iPhone producer had already linked up with IBM in July in order to improve its potential for corporate clients. IBM is to equip iPhones and iPads with tailor made apps for people working in specific sectors. However, since the cooperation was announced, Apple has remained silent about further progress on the project.

Apple is hoping that expanding into the corporate services sector will offset the lack of growth among their classic private customers – iPad sales for example have been continually declining for some time.

Apple is already working closely with a variety of start-ups such as ServiceMax and PlanGrid, which specialize in apps for business clients. According to insiders, the company is also already in talks with other mobile services developers. PlanGrid is an app for the building industry and ServiceMax, designed especially for service engineers, counts Procter & Gamble and Dupont among its clients. According to ServiceMax, new clients typically order thousands of iPhones and iPads.

wen/uh (dpa/rtr)