Will Salesforce.com Solve The Mobile Apps Challenge? - InformationWeek

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4/14/2006
04:03 PM
Elena Malykhina
Elena Malykhina
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Will Salesforce.com Solve The Mobile Apps Challenge?

Nowadays extending a business application to a mobile device is like putting together a huge puzzle. Each time you think you're getting close to completion, you're either missing a critical piece or you just can't make the different pieces fit. But it looks like things are finally starting to change. Take Salesforce.com's acquisition of Sendia this week as an example. The two c

Nowadays extending a business application to a mobile device is like putting together a huge puzzle. Each time you think you're getting close to completion, you're either missing a critical piece or you just can't make the different pieces fit. But it looks like things are finally starting to change. Take Salesforce.com's acquisition of Sendia this week as an example. The two companies have developed a mobile platform that may eliminate some of those mobile app headaches--an issue that has been on my mind all week, and one that I explore deeper in my April 17 article on Salesforce.com's AppExchange Mobile.I don't want to sing the tired old song again about small device screens, integration issues, off-the-shelf challenges, and all the other hurdles that stand in the way of mobilizing applications. But I think there are two things that are particularly interesting about what Salesforce.com is doing.

First, there's Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff's vision to "create once and run everywhere," which at first seems utopian because it implies a world where IT departments don't have to spend tons of money training their application developers on mobile versions of Java or .Net, a world where you don't have to rewrite or discard an application every time the device changes. But he's on to something. People are tired of proprietary systems that require additional middleware and applications that can work on a BlackBerry or a Treo, but not both. Life would be a lot easier if every application worked with different devices, operating systems, and wireless carrier networks. Salesforce.com says its AppExchange Mobile can. We'll just have to see if it proves true.

Second, there's a possible trend in Salesforce.com's acquisition of Sendia, where more business software companies will start offering improved mobile versions of their desktop applications instead of sending customers to third-party vendors. I bet there are many happy Salesforce.com customers out there that now have to deal with only one vendor. Earlier this week, Oracle told me that it's better suited to offer front-office and back-office integration for mobile versions of its applications than a third-party provider. Many industry analysts agree.

There's a push from other players in the industry also. Earlier this month, Nokia launched a Mobility Hosting system for mobile service providers that lets them quickly roll out new wireless services and applications.

All this is a good sign that the mobile apps challenge is being taken seriously.

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