Salesforce.com Makes a Mobility Move
Salesforce.com has scooped up wireless apps tech company and Salesforce.com partner Sendia for $15 million in cash, to deliver on-demand functionality to the mobile workforce. Alex Klyce, Sendia president and COO, has been named senior vice president and general manager of the AppExchange Mobile Business Unit for Salesforce.com. Using the capabilities that it has acquired from the deal--Salesforce.com's first-ever acquisition in its seven-year history--the on-demand player also unveiled AppExchange Mobile, a platform that extends mobile capability to all AppExchange applications.
AppExchange, launched in January 2006, allows customers to manage and run applications on a customizable, open development platform. Current AppExchange applications that can be extended to mobile users through AppExchange Mobile include Salesforce's suite of on-demand applications along with more than 60 other mobile-ready applications from vendors including Ascendus Technologies, Before the Call, and BlueWolf Group. The AppExchange Mobile platform supports various handheld devices, wireless operating systems, and platforms.
AppExchange partners can extend their on-demand applications to any mobile device without extra development cost or complexity, and ISVs and developers can dodge developing apps across multiple platforms and operating systems for use with multiple carriers, according to Salesforce.com.
By acquiring Sendia and bringing AppExchange Mobile into the core capability of the AppExchange platform, developers can write once and run anywhere, according to Kendall Collins, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce.com. "That means that a single application definition by a developer can now run on a mobile-enabled PC browser, but also on any mobile device," Collins says. "For developers it's absolutely exciting, but for customers, it's even more exciting. [They've] been really constrained to some email and some very basic office productivity tools. [Now] the entire customer ecosystem has had their applications mobile-enabled by virtue of the announcement and incorporation of the technology into the platform." According to Salesforce.com AppExchange Mobile has 79 customers and more than 2700 users, while more than 20,000 customers will have access to it.
Laurie McCabe, vice president of SMB insight and business solutions at AMI-Partners, sees the acquisition as a competitive differentiator for Salesforce.com, noting the importance of mobility to sales and service employees. "It raises AppExchange as a platform up another level in terms of capabilities. AppExchange provides this platform for all these different applications to integrate and connect to Salesforce and to each other. Now they're adding on the mobility component so that's a nice additional leverage."
In her initial thoughts on the acquisition, Liz Herbert, analyst at Forrester Research, contends that the acquisition puts Salesforce.com in the lead in wireless options since none of its competitors have as sophisticated a wireless option sold and owned directly by the vendor. She adds that the move hurts Salesforce.com's other partners in wireless CRM like Vettro, and that these partners will need to differentiate through deep specialization (like industry-specific wireless applications) to keep and grow market share.
Joe Rymsza, CEO of Vettro, however, isn't concerned. "We do not see this as a competitive threat," he says. "Salesforce.com has been trying to get into mobility for some time, first with Dejima and then with Sybase's iAnywhere mobility solution. We believe that this is a tremendous validation of our model, but we have beaten Sendia almost categorically head to head in every situation."
Although Salesforce.com has taken substantial strides to bolster its functionality it should be noted that the company experienced another service outage last week. Salesforce.com is still a fairly young company, so the acquisition, McCabe says, "underscores the fact that they have big ambitions, and even though they've had some hiccups with the outages they're going to continue to behave very assertively and really try to set the pace in the market."
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