Salesforce App Cloud Review

Salesforce Takes on Mobile App Development Cloud-style


Salesforce today announced ‘Salesforce Platform Mobile Services’, its response to the market opportunity around mobile application development. Salesforce Platform Mobile Services should smooth the development of mobile enterprise app creation and comes with support for analytics, secure access control (single-sign on based on Salesforce Identity) and other libraries of tools. As part of the ‘Mobile Services’ offering, Salesforce is rolling out a new Mobile SDK (availability announced for June) and what the company calls ‘Developer Mobile Packs’, an enriched set of Mobile APIs based on open source (ie popular JavaScript frameworks) that should enable developers to access real-time Salesforce data. -- Value & Differentiation -- PAC believes that the integration and access of real-time Salesforce data is a key benefit and strategic differentiator for the company against other emerging mobile application development environments (eg IBM, SAP, Oracle). The ecosystem and marketplace developed around the AppExchange platform gives Salesforce substantial competitive advantage. The company already has a very lively ecosystem of ISVs and developers building on its platform. So far, over threee million custom apps have been developed on the Salesforce Platform, a significant number irrespective of the level of depth of enterprise functionality put into these apps. This is particularly relevant as Salesforce’s app development environment is Cloud-native, giving it an extra advantage over other enterprise-grade mobile SDKs. -- Placement in Portfolio -- Salesforce Platform is not yet a monolithic platform, consisting of sub-branches like force.com, Heroku, database.com, AppExchange, etc. PAC learned that Salesforce Platform Mobile Services will be an extension of force.com. -- From Apex to Open Java? -- The emphasis on open source signals that Salesforce may gradually move away from Apex, its proprietary Java-based variant, towards a more open Java environment. The development activity seen on Heroku may influence the transition to open Java for force.com in the future. Out of the 3 million custom apps developed on Salesforce’s platforms, 2.7 million were developed on Heroku, and 360,000 on force.com. This may indicate that the odds may be in favor of open Java versus Apex in the long term. -- Mobile Apps vs Traditional Apps -- Of the 3 million custom apps built up to now on the Salesforce platform, it is not easy to quantify the proportion of mobile apps. Salesforce used to look at this market in a holistic manner, partly because many apps have been developed for multiple-device / universal environments. The ‘Mobile Services’ offering should help Salesforce differentiate between mobile apps development and traditional application development, as mobile and non-mobile application experiences will diverge more and more. -- Pricing -- It is still an early stage for ‘Salesforce Platform Mobile Services’ and not all of its parameters have been clearly set. Interesting questions arise as to how/if the company will monetize mobile application development (e.g. would it charge for app development as in Heroku’s PaaS environment) and what revenue opportunities could Salesforce derive from ‘Mobile Services’ (e.g., charging for development and integration, charging for hosting and secure mobile app control/ management, etc). -- Channel & Services -- In order to get traction in the Consulting & Integration arena, Salesforce plans to support adoption of ‘Mobile Services’ with a dedicated training program for the channel. The program already features some of the strongest names in the SI space like Accenture, Capgemini and Deloitte. With such partners on board, Salesforce’s credentials in mobile app development should be reinforced with large enterprise clients. In addition, as these providers have a global presence, the message should get through in all relevant geographies.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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