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This is the question, it seems, that Facebook have been wrestling with for some time. I think that we can all learn from the journey that they appear to have been on. I use the word appear because I have no connection with Facebook, I have no inside knowledge. This is just as the situation appears to me; looking in from the outside.
The Facebook u-turn
Back in November 2010 Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, said that there would be no iPad app for Facebook as the iPad was not mobile. Yesterday, finally, saw the launch of the Facebook iPad app. So what has changed?
It seems that Mark Zuckerberg had not grasped that a Tablet was more than just a small laptop. He was expecting users to be happy, and able, to use his fantastic application on their Tablet device in its current form. Either that, or, he was not expecting the Tablet’s rise to be so profound.
Understanding of new devices and what they can bring is growing. Content providers are increasingly aware that the way that you present your content or functionality for each device may need to be fundamentally different. Whether or not a Tablet is mobile or portable is debatable. The point is that it’s different. A Tablet is not a laptop / desktop and neither is it a phone.
Facebook seem to have now understood this. It’s true that you could access the Facebook web site via your iPad. You could also access a touch optimised version via touch.facebook.com. You could even just use the iPhone app on your iPad. But none of these were quite right. A custom built version of the application, for the specific device, was the correct approach in this case. Observers are already saying that the iPad app provides a better experience that the standard website on a desktop / laptop.
What does this mean?
Facebook is the perfect site for a native app conversion. What is interesting is that they chose to take a working web app and make it native. Facebook have the advantage of seemingly bottomless pockets but this tells us that leading content providers are taking the Tablet, as a platform, seriously. In the coming months and years users will be not replacing their ageing laptops with a new laptop. But, instead, they will replace them with a Tablet.
It is time to start considering the impact that this will have on services that you provide.