Why isn't there a Facebook app on Apple's platform-defining iPad? Simple, says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: It isn't mobile.
During a Facebook special event Wednesday in Palo Alto, Calif., Zuckerberg answered a question that's sure to have been plaguing Apple tablet users since its April debut. Typically Facebook has been one of the first companies to launch a native app for new mobile devices such as iPhone or those running Google Android or RIM BlackBerry OS. That wasn't the case with the iPad, even though it's operating iOS just like the iPhone.
When pressed on the issue, Zuckerberg said the iPad is a computer.
So the iPad isn't a mobile device. But it's no replacement for the personal computer either. Maybe the tablet brings us into some weird era where we're somewhere in between.
But there's validity to what Facebook's founder says. While the iPad is technically running an operating system initially designed for a mobile phone, it's never going to fit into a jeans pocket like a smartphone should. Its screen size affords different usability and utility of its apps. But without any sort of file management system, and a configuration that still depends somewhat on a program installed on a personal computer (iTunes), the iPad's not really a standalone computer either.
As other tablets start to trickle out - like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, for instance - many of them will also rely on an operating system optimized for mobile phones, whether it's a flavor of Android or perhaps Palm's WebOS. And is it really practical to build native apps for every new tablet released, each with different screen sizes, processing power and operating systems? Probably not.
So if the founder of one of the world's most popular websites says tablets aren't worth developing native apps for, will other companies follow suit? How about banks, who are trying to concurrently develop apps for smartphones?
Maybe Zuckerberg is correct in looking at the iPad as a computer, with a touch screen interface and a browser better suited to a full web experience. And while a native app only serves a fraction of the population using tablets, a well-designed website optimized for computers, tablets and mobile phones works for everyone.
Native apps are snazzy, to be sure, but if a company's working with limited resources, there's absolutely nothing wrong with developing a great website. There is value in developing apps for tablets like the iPad, especially as banks look to such devices as a tool for in-branch interaction.