Can Fix What's Wrong With Mobile Apps? - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Can Fix What's Wrong With Mobile Apps? buys a vendor specializing in delivering mobile applications to handhelds.

The PDA is rapidly trickling down from the executive suite and into the hands of the rank and file. But handing employees PDAs is a lot easier than giving them worthwhile business applications to run on the devices. An app that works on a BlackBerry won't necessarily work on a Palm Treo. And the mobile versions of vendors' software usually don't offer the functions or level of access to company data that apps for PCs do.

Benioff: Having visions of mobility

Benioff: Having visions of mobility
CRM software-as-a-service provider is stepping up to the plate with its $15 million acquisition of Sendia last week. Sendia makes a package that includes developer tools, an application server, and mobile client software that's designed to cut a lot of the work companies need to do to provide mobile access to business apps. "We have a vision: To create once and run everywhere," Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said last week in a news conference.

Sendia isn't new to Salesforce. In February, Sendia released Workspace CRM 4.0 software for Salesforce users. Salesforce says it has integrated Sendia's Workspace technology with its AppExchange, a vendor partnership program Salesforce started in January for developing, sharing, and selling applications using a hosted service model. The result is a new service called AppExchange Mobile that lets customers wirelessly access Salesforce and AppExchange applications from various devices for $50 a user per month.

AppExchange Mobile supports 60 applications, most of them from small companies that serve niches, such as Ketera Technologies, which makes supply chain software, and Remend, which makes apps for the financial industry. Developers can modify the applications using 37,000 custom objects stored in Salesforce's Web server. Benioff says the company is working to add mobile support for more apps in such areas as real estate, financial planning, and health care.

Some of Salesforce's customers are encouraged by the development. Hanger Orthopedic Group, a prosthetics maker, believes switching its salespeople from the Treo 650 to the BlackBerry 8700c would make it easier for them to log their phone calls in Salesforce's app, says Brian Moody, Hanger's regional VP of sales. Because of AppExchange Mobile, the call-logging application won't need to be modified, he says.

Lost Connection

Salesforce's software-as-a-service model seems to make sense for companies serious about access for mobile devices. Any PDA's processing power is rather limited--one reason why developing software that runs locally on devices is a turnoff for many companies. To get mobile access to software in the AppExchange program, users get an E-mail from their IT department with a link to launch an application, which runs on a hosted server.

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