Salesforce.com launches mobile access with buy

Salesforce.com announced Tuesday that it has acquired wireless technology developer Sendia for US$15 million in cash. The move is the on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) software vendor's first acquisition, according to Salesforce.com executives.

Using Sendia's technology, Salesforce.com also launched AppExchange Mobile, a platform that allows enterprise customers to access on-demand applications from handheld computers and smart phones.

AppExchange Mobile is an extension of AppExchange, the Salesforce.com online service where enterprises can try out and use applications from Salesforce.com or from partners that have developed applications compatible with its CRM service.

"This is the next evolution of the AppExchange platform," Kendall Collins, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce.com, said in a phone interview Tuesday. "There has been a dearth of mobile business applications," he added.

AppExchange Mobile will make it easier for software developers to create mobile versions of their applications, Collins said. Developers can write an application once for the AppExchange platform, and it can then be accessed from mobile devices including BlackBerry, Palm and Windows Mobile handhelds without additional development. Wireless application developers typically have to tweak applications for each device operating system.

AppExchange Mobile provides wireless access to Salesforce.com's on-demand applications as well as more than 60 other applications already part of AppExchange, Collins said. All those applications are live on http://mobile.appexchange.com/. Salesforce.com expects to see "hundreds" of mobile applications become available this year on AppExchange, he added.

Users are likely to access the mobile applications for a variety of reasons, including obtaining the latest information immediately before a meeting or updating that data straight after a meeting, Collins said. He pointed to the real estate market as a particular vertical where being able to access and update information on new house listings via mobile devices should be beneficial.

Salesforce.com customers suffered the latest in a string of recent outages of the company's service last week. The vendor already has a Web site, http://trust.salesforce.com/, in place to provide users with real-time information about the status of its systems. However, Salesforce.com may consider some additional way of communicating any likely future outages to mobile device users such as some kind of an alert, according to Bruce Francis, the company's vice president of corporate strategy.

Access to the Salesforce.com mobile service costs $50 per user per month, in addition to any access charges from mobile operators. Access is free for customers who subscribe to Salesforce.com's premium "unlimited" service.

Sendia, in Santa Monica, California, has 35 employees. Salesforce.com hopes that most of those staff will join its ranks, with discussions with individuals currently taking place, according to Collins. Alex Klyce, Sendia's president and chief operating officer, is heading a new Salesforce.com business operation as the senior vice president and general manager of the AppExchange Mobile Business Unit.

All of Sendia's 79 customers are also Salesforce.com customers, the company said.

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