There's a battle brewing for prime real estate on your computer and in your thinking. That battle is brewing between the traditionalists who are task driven and start their work with a calendar and email and those whose starting point is Twitter and Facebook.
The battle is for control of your focus and attention. Anyone who works in a corporate environment can tell you where this battle is being won right now. We corporate drones all live in our email and calendaring systems, and are virtually shut out of many social networking systems outside the firewall. This means, at least right now, that Outlook and Lotus Notes reigns supreme in the corporate workplace. But it doesn't mean that many corporate drones aren't also tweeting and posting from work on their mobile devices and in every other way they can get access to the web.
Meanwhile, many social media users are relationship driven rather than task driven, or use their relationships to find information, do tasks or solve problems. They aren't quite so driven by the calendar, and email seems like an interesting anachronism to people who grew up with IM, texting and chat. Most of these users are in smaller firms or they are individuals working from home, where they can dictate which systems they will use.
Facebook is awake to this brewing battle in a way that, surprisingly, Google doesn't appear to be and, no surprise, Microsoft and Lotus aren't. Why do you think Facebook wants to provide email capability? Next they'll introduce calendaring and scheduling, and you'll never need to leave Facebook again, regardless of the activities you plan to pursue.
Google, for all the lightweight and cloud-based apps they have available, including a nice email system, still hasn't worked out the social media capability, so while many firms are porting to Google Mail and other Google Apps, they don't have much foothold on the social media aspects. Surprising that Google hasn't done a better job anticipating the unification of information, scheduling and social interaction.
Finally, Microsoft and Lotus (Outlook and Notes respectively) think they are in a safe seat, taking their time to innovate. They have good email and calendaring systems and are the products of choice in the enterprise. They believe that they have lock-in and that their corporate customers will continue to restrict access to social media tools for the average worker drone. What they don't know is that the average worker drone is already finding ways to work around the corporate IT stack, and those drones are using Google Mail, Twitter and Facebook applications from work, and are stymied by the IT reluctance to open up to more social media tools. We corporate drones are stuck with Outlook or Notes and little or no social media tools, and increasingly we see innovation in other applications like Facebook, Google and so forth, and we want that on our work desktops as well as our mobile devices and our home machines. Microsoft and IBM are slow to recognize this conflict and are more than happy to place the blame for social media access on the IT staff, rather than trying to build more social media capability in their applications and reduce the risk of corporate usage of social media.
What will be interesting is what happens when enough Gen X and Millenials and today's teens enter the workforce having had exposure to all of the social media and mobile technology, and are restricted by corporate policies and cumbersome enterprise software. Will they rebel against the restrictions? Will they work around corporate policies by creating local "hot spots" to escape the corporate internet restrictions? Will they rely on cloud based applications when they start their own firms?
Facebook isn't just creating email and other "enterprise" and task based capabilities in its applications - it is proving that there is a impending integration of the two capabilities (relationship based and task based work) that will create a new expectation for systems at work and at home. They are also training a large segment of the population who aren't at work today to expect and demand those capabilities in the future - at home, at work, on mobile devices, anywhere.