Salesforce.com sells itself as a social network for businesses, allowing workers to share information in ways made familiar by Facebook and Twitter.
Now, with a new strategic alliance with Toyota, it seems as if Salesforce is angling to become the social network for cars.
That alliance has resulted in Toyota Friend, a private social network that connects Toyota owners to their cars, dealership and Toyota itself. That means one's Toyota will now send Twitter-style alerts in response to maintenance issues, in addition to product tips and service information. On top of that, suggests a May 23 press release issued by both companies, "customers can choose to extend their communication to family, friends and others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook."
Toyota Friend will also offer interoperability with smartphones and tablets. Statements from Salesforce and Toyota executives played heavily on the concepts of "the future" and "evolution," with Toyota president Akio Toyoda quoted as saying: "Social-networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation."
Up until this point, Salesforce seemed to concentrate largely on building "traditional" social-networking applications such as its Service Cloud, a customer service platform that lets businesses analyze and respond to customer feedback filtering from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The company also offers Chatter, which lets employees communicate and share files in a Facebook-style environment.
That being said, Salesforce has always positioned itself aggressively to expand into new territory, and perhaps cars are the next logical step.
Once upon a time, an automobile was little more than an internal combustion engine welded to a couple of seats and maybe a radio capable of picking up the local classic-rock station. That was before technology progressed to the point where dashboard screens, in-vehicle chipsets, WiFi capability and new software now threaten to turn your four-wheeler into a glorified 2-ton laptop. That dim buzzing sound you're hearing is Steve McQueen rolling in his grave.
In new Ford vehicles, for example, Microsoft's Sync gives drivers access to hands-free calling, audible text messages, music search and navigation help. Cars from other manufacturers, meanwhile, offer the ability to sync smartphones with their onboard systems.
Technology-laden or no, many of the vehicles hitting the road within the next year will embrace either an electric motor or hybrid solution, if they don't try to squeeze every ounce of possible mileage out of the old-fashioned internal-combustion engine. In the case of many models, that maximized efficiency also comes with a smaller size, although car designers have worked hard to ensure a maximum of cargo space and the ability to seat five passengers of normal size.