A Wireless Spring in Salesforce.com's Step

by Michael Hickins

The on-demand CRM leader's acquisition of Sendia is a stepping-stone to broader wireless application adoption.

Given the limitations of most wireless devices on the market, the relative dearth of business applications running on wireless devices could be moot.

But Salesforce.com has made a $15 million bet on that market, with its acquisition of wireless applications provider Sendia, announced today.

San Francisco-based Salesforce says it has 399,000 paying subscribers on its AppExchange on-demand platform. Customers include AMD, AOL, Avis, Dow Jones Newswires, Nokia, and SunTrust and it hopes that a significant number will adopt the mobile component.

Sendia, based in Santa Monica, Calif., has already developed more than 60 wireless applications for AppExchange for 79 of its own customers and over 2,700 subscribers.

According to Bruce Francis, Salesforce.com vice president of corporate strategy, the company decided to acquire Sendia in order to integrate those wireless applications into AppExchange.

"It may have been the best-kept secret in the entire Salesforce.com ecosystem" he told internetnews.com.

Using AppExchange Mobile, all current and future AppExchange partners will be able to quickly and easily extend their on-demand applications to any mobile device with no extra development cost or complexity.

Currently, ISVs and developers have to develop applications across multiple platforms and operating systems for use with multiple carriers, causing extended development, testing and QA cycles.

AppExchange Mobile allows developers to write an application once on the AppExchange on-demand platform and have it run on any mobile device, as well as any Web-enabled PC, without additional coding.

"The point is to give people a highly useable deployment and development environment," said Francis.

However, the ugly truth is that aside from e-mail, end-users haven't had many business applications to use on their wireless devices.

In part, says Kendall Collins, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce.com, this is because of the difficulty associated with developing applications specifically for those devices.

But he ticked off a range of business applications that are ready for wireless adoption, including the ability to log business calls, do expense reports or map a route.

Collins told internetnews.com that Sendia has developed an award-winning mash-up of CRM with mapping software, allowing real estate agents to map their routes for the day on their wireless devices.

Collins admitted that applications for mobile devices have historically been "over-promised and under-developed," but argued that both the devices themselves and coverage have improved to the point where developing those applications now makes sense.

He also said that Sendia has strong relationships with carriers and device makers.

Francis said the company has no idea how many customers will adopt the mobile features for their environments.

"We're not great at making predictions," he said.

But the company believes that the success Sendia has already enjoyed demonstrates an appetite for wireless business applications.

"The end user is the one who makes or breaks the mobile application," said Francis.

The AppExchange Mobile platform provides several built-in features for mobile development, including over-the-air management, highly secure and reliable data transfer.

It also supports a variety of handheld devices, including RIM's BlackBerry, as well as wireless operating systems and platforms, such as Intel's Centrino, Palm OS, RIM OS and Windows Mobile (beta).

For Enterprise Edition and Professional Edition customers, who are charged $125 per user per month, AppExchange Mobile is priced at an additional $50 per user per month.

Unlimited customers who pay $195 per user per month will not be charged for the additional Mobile component.

  This article was originally published on Tuesday Apr 11th 2006
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