Salesforce.com readies native mobile Chatter apps

Initial support for the software will include Apple devices, BlackBerries and Android

Salesforce.com is working on a series of native mobile applications for its Chatter collaboration software, the company announced Wednesday. Supported platforms include Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Google Android and Reseach in Motion's BlackBerry.

Chatter, with its Facebook-like milieu for information-sharing and social networking, had already been accessible via mobile Web browsers. But customers really prefer applications developed specifically for a mobile device's form factor, said Kraig Swensrud, senior vice president of product marketing.

Moreover, the mobile medium opens up tantalizing new possibilities for Chatter collaboration among distributed teams, Swensrud said. For example, workers could use the applications to share photographs of a whiteboard used during a brainstorming session.

The BlackBerry and Apple device applications will be available late this year, followed by an Android version sometime in the first half of 2011, Salesforce.com said.

Salesforce.com sees "no user demand" for Windows Mobile, and has no current plans to support it, Swensrud said.

Although the applications won't be released for some time, Salesforce.com is announcing them now to give customers a heads-up, Swensrud said.

Salesforce.com is taking its time developing the software. Corporate users "want a product they can roll out and standardize," whereas it's more accepted to constantly revise consumer mobile applications, he said.

The vendor is wise to highlight the upcoming applications now, said Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang. "It's a very competitive market. In this space, if you don't let your customers know what's going on, your competitors will be."

It's also taking some time for vendors to develop mobile application strategies simply because the mobile platforms themselves have been changing so quickly, he added. "No one knows who is going to win or lose."

Existing Salesforce.com customers get Chatter at no additional charge, and the same will go for the mobile applications.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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