Dreamforce 2011: Salesforce taps into tablets with new HTML5 mobile app

By Derek du Preez
01 Sep 2011 View Comments
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Cloud CRM vendor Salesforce has unveiled a new application for mobile devices – Touch.salesforce.com – based on open standard HTML5 technology.

The announcement was made at its annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco.

Further reading

Analysts and IT leaders predict this development is likely to further drive the adoption of tablets in the enterprise.

HTML5 is the next major revision of the HTML language, which is used for structuring and presenting web content.

Touch.salesforce.com, available in 2012, will run as a native client on most popular mobile devices, providing an optimised application for users, providing a better experience when compared with accessing Salesforce apps via a web browser.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said during a keynote: "We have talked about the power of what's changing in hardware with new tablets, mobile devices and the next generation of computers.

"However, this change in hardware is also being complemented by something we haven't seen in this industry for decades.

"The change in hardware is also being complemented by a huge change in software – and that software is HTML5. This software will give us the ability to build applications that run natively on mobile devices, but are also managed as a service," he added.

Benioff pointed to Amazon's Kindle and Google as examples of how HTML5 is being used successfully on mobile devices, and explained how this will extend to CRM and Salesforce.

"The way in which you use Salesforce on mobile devices is going to change. The formatting on the device [as opposed to when accessed via a web browser] will look a lot better," he explained.

"All the applications will run natively on these devices on HTML5 and any Salesforce apps a company has already built – all custom objects, custom tabs, custom fields – are going to be brought forward into this new platform. All the hardware, all the investment, all the things you have been doing to be successful with the platform, will now run natively on these devices."

Timothy Hickernell, associate lead analyst of enterprise applications at research group Info Tech, spoke to Computing at Dreamforce and highlighted that this innovation is likely to be a killer app for IT managers and CIOs looking to roll out tablets in the enterprise.

"The most significant announcement that Benioff made today was Touch.salesforce.com. And not because it is unique or unexpected, but because it gives the IT department something it has been looking for – an excuse to justify tablets in the enterprise," explained Hickernell.

"There are a lot of little apps out there that are really useful, such as email and calendering, but none have been enough for IT to really jump in with tablets. Salesforce has given IT the one app it can take to the CEO and say this justifies us going down the tablet route," he added.

"This will happen because Salesforce is so pervasive, it is one of the few companies that could do it. Also, there are a whole bunch of other vendors sitting out there waiting for the demand for tablets to increase, and if a company such as Salesforce breaks the dam wall, and enterprises go down the tablet route, other vendors will develop similar offerings."

Eric ten Hoopen, IT manager for Netherlands-based broadcasting company RTL, agreed with Hickernell and expects that his IT department will be able to issue tablets to its sales team as a result of the Touch.salesforce.com announcement.

More than 100 RTL users currently work with Salesforce's CRM application, which was implemented more than two years ago, and RTL is now looking to take advantage of the new mobile offerings.

"Salesforce will drive the iPad in the enterprise, and the iPad will drive Salesforce," said ten Hoopen.

"Last year the board decided to buy everyone at RTL an iPad, but they are being used as personal mobile devices, not really for work. With Touch.salesforce.com, I think our departments will now ask for iPads to work on," he added.

Marc Benioff also unveiled a new set of features for SalesForce's Chatter application – an enterprise collaboration tool that aims to help companies use social media internally.

Chatter Now will allow users to see when colleagues are online and will also feature instant messaging chat in a bid to drive real-time collaboration. Chatter Groups has also expanded with new Chatter Customer Groups, which, for the first time, will allow Chatter users to invite external parties into a private Chatter network. Salesforce hopes this will "extend enterprise collaboration beyond the four walls of a company".

Chatter Service, also a new feature, will enable customers to ask a company questions within a social feed, and have answers given to them in real-time by either a knowledge database, experts or service agents.

"Salesforce.com was born 'cloud' in 1999. But we have been reborn 'social'. We were inspired by Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – all these networks are doing amazing collaboration," said Benioff.

"This inspired us to create Salesforce Chatter. Building that collaboration platform, that collaboration foundation, is the first step to building your employee social network."

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