Upcoming Salesforce.com release adds real-time chat capabilities

Salesforce.com also has plans to launch a new system-performance site called Known Issues

Salesforce.com, which has placed ample emphasis on its Chatter social networking application, will actually begin providing real-time chat functionality as part of an imminent upgrade to its family of cloud-based software, according to a company document.

Chatter Messenger will be generally available as part of the upcoming Summer '12 launch of Salesforce.com's CRM (customer relationship management) software, according to release notes that have already been uploaded to the company's website.

No formal announcement of Summer '12's release has been made, but a recent post on an official corporate blog indicated that Salesforce.com is targeting a June delivery date.

Chatter Messenger is "enabled by default in organizations that have Chatter enabled," including those with Chatter Plus accounts as well as the Chatter Free edition, the release notes state. The system provides presence capabilities and users can chat with up to 10 people at once, they add.

However, Salesforce.com users will have to rely on language to convey subtle nuances of meaning during chats, as only a handful of different emoticons are available for now, according to the notes.

In addition, Chatter Messenger doesn't support Internet Explorer 7 and those who use it will appear to be offline, according to the notes. Salesforce.com recommends the latest version of Firefox for best performance on its applications. It has dropped support overall for Internet Explorer 6, the notes state.

Still, the Messenger capabilities will flesh out Chatter's existing features for file-sharing, groups and activity streams.

Chatter Messenger was inspired, like many Salesforce.com features, by suggestions customers made on the vendor's community website. Customers vote on and rank submitted ideas, and some of the most popular ones eventually end up in the product.

A groundswell of negative user feedback on the community site recently led Salesforce.com to stop plans to charge separately for some long-requested analytics capabilities for the CRM system.

Meanwhile, the Summer '12 update is set to include a wide range of new features apart from Chatter Messenger.

One is Known Issues, a website that features a "subset of the issues Salesforce.com is aware of and, in many cases, working to fix," the notes state. This feature comes as no surprise given the increased pressure cloud vendors like Salesforce.com face in the wake of high-profile service outages, which can have a serious impact on their customers' ongoing operations.

Issues listed on the site will provide a summary of the problem, workarounds, ongoing updates and "an estimate of the time frame in which we'll release a fix for the issue," Salesforce.com said.

It wasn't immediately clear, however, whether Known Issues would serve in addition to or supersede Salesforce.com's existing system monitoring website.

Salesforce.com is also planning to undertake a "complete rearchitecture" of its email services due to customer requests, as well as past and expected future growth, according to the notes. The improvements will "boost the resiliency, scalability and efficiency of inbound email" and are scheduled to be phased in over a number of weeks after the Summer '12 launch, they added.

Mobility is another focus of Summer '12. A native client for Android tablets will be generally available, along with general availability of Chatter for devices running iOS version 2.1. Salesforce Touch for iPads remains in beta following its March release, the notes state.

Salesforce.com's developer community will gain a variety of enhancements to the underlying Force.com platform as well, including a new visual interface for building database schemas and a series of tweaks to Salesforce.com's Apex programming language.

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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