Salesforce.com has unveiled Chatter Mobile, a way for business users to monitor Chatter social-networking updates via their Apple, Google or BlackBerry device. The Chatter platform, with its Facebook-like stream of user posts and comments, represents Salesforce's bet that businesses will gravitate more and more toward social networks as tools of collaboration and efficiency.
Chatter Mobile for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and BlackBerry will be released in late 2010, with availability on Google Android devices in the first half of 2011. It will be free for Salesforce CRM and Force.com subscribers.
Chatter looks and behaves very much like Facebook, with customizable user profiles and the ability to respond to colleagues' posts. Users can click on a notice to see more detail about a particular case, and bring colleagues with additional knowledge and experience into a conversation. It represents the latest attempt by Salesforce to embrace social networking, after initiatives such as Salesforce for Twitter, which integrates Twitter into the company's Service Cloud offering, and Salesforce Answers, which allows a business to post a question or data to its user community.
Just as Chatter resembles Facebook, Chatter Mobile resembles a typical social-networking app for smartphones: Streamlined for a smaller screen, it places the latest user-network updates front and center. Salesforce executives previewed the iPad version for eWEEK, showing off the app's ability to flip into landscape mode and filter the most relevant colleagues' feeds. The BlackBerry version, obviously, differs somewhat in its formatting from the ones available for Apple's mobile devices.
For Salesforce, Chatter Mobile may help increase the Chatter platform's "stickiness" with customers; a recent IDC report suggested that the use of mobile apps is growing at a double-digit rate. That might help the company fend off any challenges from other enterprise IT companies in the space, many of which have been baking social-networking applications into their own platforms.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff originally unveiled Salesforce Chatter during a high-profile April presentation in New York City, suggesting that it was time for enterprise applications to take inspiration from social-networking-centric properties such as Facebook and YouTube.
"I know more about strangers on Facebook than I do about my own employees," Benioff joked with the audience. "But that shows there are more exciting new models we can learn from."
The new models, he added, embrace concepts such as real-time collaboration, social applications and a social platform-with an emphasis on "a new mobile Internet revolution that's kind of a transformation from the desktop Internet."
At the time, the Chatter beta preview was being tested by more than 500 companies. According to Salesforce executives, more than 20,000 companies now use Chatter.