How about a way to make all of Salesforce's technology available on mobile devices? Now we're getting somewhere.
Mobility is King
Every large technology company makes a major announcement at its annual user conference. But Salesforce shipped code, as they say, for the launch of the Dreamforce conference this week. Salesforce1 debuted on the first day — and it actually powered the Dreamforce app many of the reported 130,000 attendees downloaded to organize their schedules.
There has been plenty of noise about connecting everyday smart objects like automobiles and bus kiosks at Dreamforce. But one of the things Salesforce customers will notice first about Salesforce1 is that much more mobile capability is built into the new service.
Take Chatter, for example, the Salesforce social network that is meant to help teams and departments collaborate across divisions, regions and time zones. The activity feed style layout in Chatter is baked into Salesforce1 as the more or less base layer. Salesforce is calling it the unified feed, Mike Micucci, senior vice president of product management at Salesforce, said during the Chatter roadmap session.
Most of the recent Chatter releases have to do with mobile updates and improvements. The biggest change is that the Chatter app in the App Store has been replaced with a Salesforce1 app. Chatter morphing to Salesforce1 is just one example of the company's shift toward mobile.Salesforce admins can take quick actions from mobile devices with Salesforce1
Build Mobile Apps Faster — But for Who?
When a company as large as Salesforce goes big on mobile, it needs developers. The company now has 1.4 million registered, Adam Seligman, vice president of developer and partner marketing, said at the developer keynote. To help build that cadre of developers even larger, Salesforce has teamed up with Udacity, a massive open online course (MOOC) provider, to teach people how to build apps with Salesforce1.
Furthermore, the development team at Salesforce has been traveling around, meeting with computer science students at various universities, — a tactic right out of the Microsoft playbook, Matthew Leete, an analyst at the Daily Mail and General Trust, a London based media firm, said in an interview.
"It's interesting that Salesforce is going after university students because that is how Microsoft recruits hard core programmers," Leete said.
Another way Salesforce is targeting hard core programmers is with the release of a command line interface (CLI) for Force.com, a way for developers to script and automate tasks by quickly interacting with the APIs.
"The CLI is a hardcore developer platform and not just specific to Salesforce," Leete said. "It's a way for Salesforce to show programmers it has real developer tools and not just a system that help business users create Salesforce apps."
Regulated Industries Further Behind on Mobile
CMSWire caught up with some of those Salesforce business users, and while mobile is what Benioff has bet the company on, those we spoke with were less focused on it. Daniel Salazar came to his first Dreamforce in 2013 from Houston, Texas with several of his coworkers from Medical Research Consultants (MRC).
This is a company that deals with legal documents, a use case that simply doesn't lend itself well to mobile.
"Our version of Salesforce is heavily customized and we have lots of apps, but exposing thousands of documents to a mobile device would just be burdensome," Salazar said.
MRC provides document services in medical legal challenges, and it has what it calls a store front for offering documents to a client's legal opposition. This store front might be a place where a mobile version could make sense, Salazar said, but it's not likely a priority for his company. Still, Salazar said he was curious enough about Salesforce1 to grab a few developer guide books to see what the new APIs could do to help his company speed workflows.
Diane Arnold, who also works in a highly regulated industry, was more upbeat about Salesforce1, but agreed her company didn't have much use for mobile enabled apps. Arnold came to Dreamforce 2013 for the first time from Raliegh, N.C., where she works for Charles Schwab Adviser Technology Solutions. "Pretty much everything I've seen of Salesforce1 makes me say; it can do that?!" Arnold said with a laugh.
Dante Mastri and Penny Craig, who work at American Express, both said Salesforce1 looked awesome, but that their sales teams may have to wait a while to adopt it. "They mostly are still using Blackberry devices, so we'll have to see how much support there is for that." Craig said.