Re/code’s Kurt Wagner reports that Facebook will likely launch a freemium version of Facebook at Work by the end of the year; the product is currently in a closed beta.
In Facebook At Work, employees maintain completely separate accounts for their work lives and use Facebook groups as informal company chat rooms–as well as Messenger for direct conversations.
There is no word yet on pricing, but based on feature set and functionality, it appears that Facebook is targeting the enormously lucrative small business market. Work email and collaboration is a sweetspot for Silicon Valley firms, which often can only gain a consumer foothold by offering free, advertising- or data-mining-based products. In comparison, selling products to business or enterprise customers means having users that actually pay money for your service.
Earlier this year, Google unveiled a version of their Inbox software for business customers. Evernote, the popular note-taking app, has been aggressively pushing their collaboration and work chat functionality for enterprise users as well. And it’s worth remembering that, way back at the beginning of the ill-fated Time Warner-AOL acquisition, Time Warner’s employees rebelled after being forced to use AOL’s email client.