Did Facebook just escalate the battle of digital assistants to enterprise?

Although rather nimbly, Facebook yesterday unveiled its take on a personal digital assistant for iOS and Android users. Dubbed “Facebook Here” by TechCrunch, the low-publicized “feature” lives inside Notifications area on the app. Here adopts the now fairly standard card-based UI to show information such as your friends’ birthdays, life events, upcoming sports and events, TV shows, what’s trending and geo-specific content such as nearby places, movies/theatres, local events and news etc.

With this, Facebook finally gets a level playing field to take Google’s recently announced Google Now on Tap contextual service and Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant head-on for consumers. Consider this:

· Facebook has an extremely rich social profile of yours — which Google and Microsoft lack. It exactly knows your friends, strength of your relationship with them, your messages, activity updates, places you’ve visited, content you read and share and much more

· By mining your social graph, Facebook can surface things which interest you. On the contrary, Now and Cortana can surface in the moment factual information unless they explicitly enquire about your tastes and preferences to learn over time

· Users already spend a significant share of daily screen time on the Facebook app — especially hooked to the Notifications tab. Importantly, almost every notification row elicits a user action. Showing relevant, timely content on the same tab just feels natural!

But wait a minute… Is this “me-too” assistant the only card that Facebook has up its sleeves? Perhaps not.

Later yesterday, Facebook announced a huge win for its FB@Work enterprise collaboration and productivity offering: Royal Bank of Scotland adopted the platform for its 100k employees. Superimpose this big announcement on top of the Here “feature” launch and new possibilities start to emerge!

Can Facebook Here — in its current form — be a precursor to a “smart, fully enterprise context-aware digital personal assistant living right inside FB@Work?”

With 300 businesses already using FB@Work within 10 months of its public unveiling, Facebook appears serious in this enterprise play largely seen as an attempt to secure an alternate source of B2B revenue in addition to its ads-based monetization. Competitors Google and Microsoft both already have years to deep enterprise reach (and hence, real enterprise user and activity data) with offerings such as Google Apps for Work, Microsoft’s Yammer and SharePoint. To add to it, interactive services such as Google Now are ready to surface relevant work-related content/notifications/reminders to enterprise workers.

Here appears fit to fill this gap for Facebook. There is nothing that beats showing enterprise information workers (IWs) in-the-moment, relevant and actionable cards straight within their company’s social network. If we’re reading the signs correctly, the Here+FB@Work combo certainly doesn’t seem like a far-fetched dream. It’s almost here!

PM Concept and UI Mockup #1 (Prepared by me)
PM Concept and UI Mockup #2 (Prepared by me)

This article was first published as a post on LinkedIn. Follow me on LinkedIn.

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