Salesforce.com applications have been used by mobile workers for a long time to conduct their business on the road. But a new "mobile-first" approach by the company will now likely make it easier for developers to build Salesforce apps with a mobile focus.
That's the idea behind the company's recently released Summer '12 Salesforce application development platform, according to a Salesforce.com blog post by Quinton Wall, the company's director of technical platform marketing.
"Every application design and development should start mobile-first," Wall wrote. "Whether iPad, Android or another mobile device, apps have to be instant-on, with real-time data pushed in. The Salesforce platform is designed for this radical new model of applications [and] has introduced new features in the Summer '12 release to support mobile app development."
To accomplish these goals for users, Salesforce is transforming its development platform, said Byron Sebastian, the company's vice president of platforms.
"It's not just about one release," he said. "This is about a long-term strategy. We're going big on mobile."
The moves are in response to customer requests for more ways to rapidly build mobile Salesforce applications that can be used by their mobile workers, Sebastian said. "What we're seeing from our customers is that the landscape is changing very rapidly in terms of the apps they want to build and how they want to deliver those applications."
One of the big new pieces of the Summer '12 platform release are capabilities to build location awareness into new Salesforce applications, he said, which will make the applications even more useful for customers.
"Mobile, social media and cloud computing have really transformed the landscape in the last five years," he said. "Salesforce is betting big on all of those transformations. Mobile is not a fad. It's transforming the whole industry and our products and vision and strategy."
The new mobile-first capabilities are available immediately to application developers, Sebastian said.
The customer demand for broader mobile tools began last year, he said, when customers talked about their increased use of tablet computers and mobile devices by workers. "What we've been doing is asking them how we could make it easier and faster for those customers to build those applications. It was validated by the customer successes that we saw."
A key strength of the new platform is that the mobile improvements are integrated with the existing Salesforce development tools, he said. "The key thing is that we're not treating mobile as an add-on or as something that you have to download. We're taking mobile into the core of our platform. Thats part of being mobile-first."
Dan Maycock, an analyst with Slalom Consulting, said the Salesforce moves for the new platform will help lead to similar changes from other software and services vendors.
"I think they're ahead of the game as far as enterprise software goes," Maycock said. Bigger vendors, such as Oracle and its Siebel product line, are just getting into making their products more mobile-friendly.
"Salesforce already caters to companies that are more technologically in-tune with mobile users," Maycock said. "For many companies today, if you dont already have a mobile strategy, you need one now."
Business leaders are acknowledging this more and more, he added. "Most CIOs have mobile strategy on their agendas this year, so from that standpoint, Salesforce has great timing."
The move will also likely be copied by competitors who see Salesforce as a leader in several key areas of business IT. "It will influence other vendors to do this," Maycock said. "You saw what Salesforce did with [popularizing] the cloud. It's going to be the same thing here. A lot of vendors followed Salesforce into that space, and with mobile they will follow them there, as well."