Salesforce is announcing in London this morning that Chatter (more here) is available as mobile applications… kind of. In true Marc Benioff fashion, salesforce is pre-announcing a host of mobile apps that will launch between now and early 2011 for iPhone/iPad, BlackBerry and Android devices. Specifically salesforce is advising that:

Chatter Mobile apps for BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone and the new iPod touch are currently scheduled to be available in late 2010. Chatter Mobile for Android devices is currently scheduled to be available in the first half of 2011.

HiRes_iPad_Chatter_landscape

A mobile ready Chatter interface is an obvious move – both Twitter and Facebook show huge numbers of users interfacing via mobile apps, given that Chatter is touted as salesforce’s social offering, it too needs to be mobile ready.

In a briefing I received from Scott Holden, Senior Director of Product Marketing at salesforce today, I was interested to hear that Chatter has gained nearly 20000 users since its release to general availability two months ago. Salesforce believes that the mobile app will heighten this adoption still further. In terms of functionality, users will be able to monitor and update status from the mobile device, and also use their devices camera to post statuses (an interesting use-case was raised about posting images of whiteboard jotting on Chatter for colleagues to share).

As I said before – location should never be an impediment to social interaction. As Ray Wang from Altimeter said:

Enterprises are embracing social apps and mobile computing as their future, customers shouldn’t ever worry about where or how their social apps are deployed and accessed

The provision of mobile apps is an obvious need, but this briefing gave me the opportunity to question Holden about a couple of issues that may potentially create barriers to the adoption of Chatter. Firstly pricing. Chatter costs $15/user/month for users without the need for an existing salesforce product. While $15 is a huge sum, it is my contention that the usage of Chatter within an organization will grow slowly – as such it strikes me that large organizations will be reluctant to make this investment across their entire employee base – the paradox in all of this of course is that to be truly game changing, social software needs to be spread as widely as possible throughout an organization.

I questioned Holden about this, he commented that they’re always looking to make their product accessible and that in particular pricing mix is something they often look at. He noted that there are no specific announcements about pricing changes at his stage – watch this space I guess!

The second barrier I discussed with Holden is that of internal versus external. Many believe that for a social product to be truly social, it needs to include the ability of external stakeholders – customers, suppliers etc, to take part. At his stage Chatter is entirely an internal tool and I put this to him asking if some externally facing changes could be in the pipeline. Holden was careful to point out that there were no announcements to make at this stage regarding product pipeline, however he did concur with my view about Chatter needing to move to the outside. he also, somewhat cryptically, told me that salesforce engineers are always looking at better ways of doing things and related this to externally facing social tools.

All in all, Chatter for mobile is an obvious move. It’s unfortunate it’s not a real live generally-available product at this stage but having mobile apps, and some of the changes I suggest, should see salesforce gain market share on the back of social.

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.

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