Salesforce doesn't have a lot to prove at this point. Although it is far and away the No. 1 enterprise cloud business services provider in the world, it refuses to let up on the throttle when it comes to reinventing itself. The term "status quo" is not in the company lexicon.
Like some of the non-IT speakers at this week's DreamForce 2013 conference at the Moscone Center—such esteemed thinkers as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra—the San Franciso-based company is constantly looking inward, re-evaluating itself, revisiting its core mission and rejiggering itself.
While this inward focus to remain relevant appears to be in direct contrast to the over-the-top social nature of the company's culture and sales DNA, it's one of the core principles guiding its 9,800 employees and leading to the $3.05 billion top line it will record in 2013.
That strategy has led Salesforce to the Nov. 18 announcement of its Salesforce1 customer resource management (CRM) development platform, which isn't so much a new product or service as is it a reassembly of existing products and services that also adds new functionality—mostly for mobile app development.
Redesigned With Mobile Apps in Mind
Whereas the original Salesforce.com and Force.com were constructed several years ago with desktop and laptop PCs as their main targets, Salesforce1 is designed with social media and mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) first in mind.
App developers of all kinds cannot have too many application programming interfaces (APIs) from which to choose; Salesforce1 offers about 10 times more than the previous toolkit, and it also contains a score of new components for building updated user interfaces.
New tools for gamification are included. Gamification injects fun into the sales process because it adds game characteristics in non-game contexts to engage users to solve problems or to motivate salespeople.
In all, more than 2,000 applications currently available on the Salesforce.com AppExchange can be pulled into Salesforce1.
The updated platform also sports a new mobile application that gives developers a single path to deploy three types of apps: Salesforce.com's standard ones, those that were custom-built and those purchased from partners through the AppExchange.
Admin App Breaks Some New Ground
Salesforce1's Admin App is the first mobile app built specifically for Salesforce CRM administrators that enables them to manage and assist from any device. Using it, admins can now get instant updates from users and remotely reset passwords; quickly freeze or deactivate users from any device; and access Salesforce maintenance and upgrade schedules directly inside the app.
Major cloud service providers, such as Dropbox, Evernote, Kenandy and LinkedIn, will be available on the Salesforce1 Customer Platform. Apps such as internal budgeting and customer-facing online retail can be built on Salesforce1 in a fraction of the time compared with on legacy platforms, the company said.
What might be the most relevant feature of Salesforce1 for small and midsize companies is that IT admins can future-proof and make mobile-enabled their current Salesforce applications on the new platform without losing a step. Salesforce1 has more than 10 million Visualforce pages, and custom actions are mobile-enabled. Using the new Visualforce1, admins can combine fields, objects and even other services into pages, components and apps that run within Salesforce1, making it easier to distribute apps through a single mobile platform.
With the new Salesforce1 Mobile App built on the Salesforce1 Customer Platform, users can access and experience Salesforce everywhere on any form factor, the company said. All the custom applications, CRM and partner apps from the Salesforce AppExchange that enterprises have used over the years will be refreshed.
What's in It for ISVs?
Salesforce1 provides Internet service providers (ISVs) everything required to build, package and sell apps, the company said. This includes trials, upgrades and support in order to ensure a high-growth cloud business. ISVs can now sell apps into an enterprise marketplace that already has more than 2 million installs; distribute apps directly into Salesforce1 via Private AppExchange; and get technical enablement and create go-to-market strategies.
"[Salesforce1] is a pretty good extension of our existing partnership with Salesforce," Box General Manager of Enterprise Whitney Bouck said. "Mobile is now pretty much a de facto platform. Our most-used integration in conjunction with an enterprise app is Salesforce. We think it's fantastic news that Salesforce is making a stronger investment in mobile."
Some early skeptics have written that Salesforce1 is simply a rehash and perhaps a slight upgrade to what's already available on the current platform.
"There's always going to be borrowing of IT, but at least what we're hoping to see when they ship this is a platform that's built for modern-day mobile requirements," Bouck said. "I believe Salesforce is going to take full advantage of the progressions in the mobile marketplace and use those as a strategic advantage to come out with something that's really, really strong.
"That's what we're all hoping for. We'll see what happens when we see it in the flesh," she said.
All Salesforce.com customers will be upgraded automatically to the new platform, the company said. CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff is expected to explain the migration during his keynote address on Day 2 of the conference on Nov. 19.