Salesforce Aims to Boost Mobile App Deployment With Lightning Tools

Salesforce has opened an AppExchange for its Lightning Components to enable developers to meet the immense demand for mobile business applications running on smartphones and tablets.

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Building on last year’s release of its easy-to-use, visual developer platform Lightning, Salesforce has announced the availability of Salesforce Lightning Components and AppExchange for Components.

The idea behind Lightning is to simplify the development of enterprise mobile apps via point-and-click and drop down menus and templates. Components, which include handy functions such as search, mapping, compensation calculator and calendar, can be easily added to Lightning apps as needed.

The AppExchange for Components gives users an online store where developers pick and choose Salesforce Components and those offered by third parties. Or, developers can offer their own components for sale. The AppExchange launches with 50 Components with many more expected by the end of the year.

The news comes at a time when the use of mobile devices and components is exploding and many independent software developers and corporate development teams are having trouble keeping up with demand. Just last month, Gartner said that through 2017 the market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them.

“When we talk to IT leaders, they tell us they are struggling to build and maintain these apps for the enterprise,” Lisa Kant, direct of product marketing at, told eWEEK.

Based on JavaScript, Lightning Components, are reusable building blocks. Components range from something as simple as a user interface widget to more robust features such as micro services with embedded data and logic.

Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research, said the Salesforce offering should help close the current application gap where mobile app development in the enterprise is far behind the diverse selection available on the consumer side.

“Even though it’s been talked about for what seems like forever, custom mobile enterprise apps are still in very limited numbers,” O'Donnell, told eWEEK. “There’s a real need for tools to simplify the process.” O’Donnell notes most enterprises have hundreds of Windows apps developed over decades, but they have far fewer mobile apps because of the challenges and developer resources needed to create apps for at least two platforms, mainly Android and iOS. “If I’m a hotshot Android developer, am I going to work at GM or some hot startup?” he asked rhetorically.

With Lightning, Salesforce says it’s made app development far simpler and far more accessible for IT and others.

“For Salesforce, it’s important that IT can move fast and be in control,” says Kant. To that end, Lightning includes a Sandbox feature where newly created apps can be safely tested before they’re distributed to the wider organization. In a demo she showed how the app developer simply clicks on Sandbox to test the app or clicks on Install to put it right into production.

Early customers like marketing and sales services firm Crossmark say they plan to use Lightning extensively. “Components, from both Salesforce and its partners, will be critical to our app development strategy moving forward,” Crossmark CIO Mike Anderson said in a statement.

Developers also will be able to market their own free or paid apps on the Lightning Components AppExchange.

Kant says Lightning will be featured prominently at the company’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco in September in both briefing sessions and in hands-on workshops.

Salesforce said Lightning Components and App Builder should be “generally available” with today’s announcement for the current release of Salesforce and included in all CRM and administrator licenses. AppExchange for Components is live and available for everyone to access. Individual partner components on the AppExchange are priced per user or per Salesforce instance.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...