SAN FRANCISCO—Salesforce.com believes that it will be able to jump-start the deployment of business applications on wireless devices with its small, but strategic acquisition of Sendia on April 11.
Sendia, of Santa Monica, Calif., developed a mobile application deployment platform that Salesforce.com officials say will simplify and speed up the process of deploying AppExchange applications on multiple wireless devices (including cell phones) and operating systems, including Windows Mobile, the Palm Treo and the RIM BlackBerry.
The Sendia technology will allow AppExchange developers to build their applications once and then deploy them on multiple wireless devices without heavy rewriting or tuning for each platform, said Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
Benioff contends that while wireless device users can readily access a large number of consumer applications on the Web, there are far fewer business Web applications. The availability of the Sendia technology will speed up the process of giving users mobile access to AppExchange applications.
Salesforce.com will offer the Sendia technology as AppExchange Mobile. AppExchange is an application development and launch platform that allows third-party software developers to give customers access to their software through Salesforce.coms Web interface.
Salesforce.com offers a core on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) application. AppExchange supports a diverse set of third-party applications including expense management, contact management, real estate sales, travel management, budgeting and human resources, among others.
Currently about 60 AppExchange products are mobile-enabled with the Sendia technology. Benioff said the rest of the 209 AppExchange products will be mobile-enabled in the next few months.
Chris Thomas, chief strategy officer with Intel, said the computer industry has needed a way to port business applications to mobile environments. There has been no easy way to do that, and Web browser-based applications dont work well on mobile devices without modification.
The Sendia acquisition is a relatively small, but fairly strategic acquisition for Salesforce.com because it allows it to quickly deploy AppExchange applications to wireless devices, said Denis Pombriant, founder of Beagle Research, a CRM market research firm based in Stoughton, Mass.
The acquisition makes sense because Salesforce.com acquired infrastructure technology that will make it easier to deploy applications on wireless devices, Pombriant noted. Its not trying to grow by acquiring new applications, he said, because it doesnt have to.
Instead, it has AppExchange to encourage third-party developers to deploy their applications on the Salesforce.com platform, Pombriant said. Salesforce.com generates revenue every time a third-party developer distributes its applications through AppExchange.
“Ive spoken with [Sendias] customers and seen their product. I think it is cool stuff and the customers are happy,” Pombriant said. It will win good support in the market for developers who need to make specific on-demand applications work on handheld devices.
Developers have been slow to deploy business applications on wireless devices because of the complicated process for trying to deploy different versions of the applications that will run on the personal digital assistants or cell phones.
For Sendia, the acquisition couldnt come at a better time. Sources told eWEEK that Sendia had been seeking a buyer for months because it was running short on cash and its technology wasnt generating enough cash to keep the company solvent.
For Salesforce.com the acquisition was a natural choice because the two companies had been working together for many months and their technologies worked well together, said Parker Harris, Salesforce.coms executive vice president of technology.
“Its hard for companies to build a huge business” on wireless solutions, Harris said.
The Sendia technology has proved to be a good adjunct to the Salesforce.com AppExchange platform, and that is why the acquisition is beneficial to both companies as well as to Salesforce.com customers, he said. In addition, all of Sendias 79 customers are also Salesforce.com AppExchange customers.
“With our resources we can now accelerate their business even more so than when they were independent,” Harris said.
The Sendia acquisition is not a sign that Salesforce.com is about to start an acquisition binge, he indicated. The acquisition is both “strategic and tactical” because it allows the company to grow in new directions while providing a means to serve customers better, he said.
“It wasnt like we took this big thing and bolted it onto our company. It fits seamlessly,” he said. “Our focus is not to go out and acquire companies. Our focus is to serve customers, and that is what we are doing with the Sendia acquisition,” he said.
Salesforce.com has named Sendia President and Chief Operating Officer Alex Klyce as senior vice president and general management of the AppExchange Mobile Unit. Sendia has 35 employees, but there is no word on how many of them will ultimately join Salesforce.com.