News off the wire today that Salesforce.com and Toyota have formed a “strategic alliance” that will see Toyota create a private social network for car owners built on top of Chatter. First some detail of the deal, according to the release;

Toyota Friend will be a private social network that connects Toyota customers with their cars, their dealership, and with Toyota. Toyota Friend will provide a variety of product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips, creating a rich car ownership experience. For example, if an EV or PHV is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to re-charge in the form of a “tweet”-like alert. In addition, while Toyota Friend will be a private social network, customers can choose to extend their communication to family, friends, and others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook

This is a pretty big deal on a couple of levels;

Enterprise Social goes Mainstream

With this deal, salesforce takes an enterprise social product and pushes it out to the masses. It’s a significant validation of the Enterprise 2.0 concept of porous walls between consumers and the enterprise itself. This deal is a proof-of-concept of the value of engaging end consumers with the core of the enteprirse system and, if successful, should see these sorts of initiatives broaden to include consumers into other parts of the enteprrise (design, sourcing etc)

Chatter Goes Outside Salesforce

Perhaps as importantly for salesforce.com, this initiative strikes a blow at standalone social offerings such as Yammer. Many people regard Chatter as simply an adjunct to salesforce.com, however this new network sees Chatter utilized in ways that are only peripherally related to the CRM itself.

Salesforce as an Uber Cloud Provider

Buried in the detail of this announcement was the following;

Although TMC and salesforce.com will launch their partnership with the building of Toyota Friend, in the future the companies plan to develop cloud services for TMC’s open platform and create new business opportunities leveraging their respective strengths.

Salesforce.com and TMC will each make investments in Toyota Media Service Co. (TMS), which oversees TMC’s global cloud platform development. Salesforce.com will invest 223 million yen and TMC will invest 442 million yen. Microsoft Corporation, which on April 6 announced a strategic partnership with TMC to build a global platform for next generation telematics services, will invest 350 million yen.

This is pretty staggering – a collaboration between sworn enemies Microsoft and salesforce, an initiative that sees salesforce shake off the yoke as just a one trick (CRM) pony, and a partnership that could see innovative solutions built that span the consumer to enterprise divide.

What it Means Overall

Benioff has long been the aspirational figure proclaiming the coming of successive waves of Cloud. While many of use commentators don’t buy into his “Cloud 2.0” hyperbole – this partnership could well see the coming to fruition of services that previously were only the stuff of concept videos. It’s the future writ today.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

Leave a Reply