Salesforce Jumps Into Collaboration Software With Chatter

Posted by: Aaron Ricadela on November 18, 2009

Salesforce.com Chief Executive Marc Benioff has never been shy about borrowing a bit of other companies’ mojo. On Nov, 18, he introduced the software company’s latest product, a business collaboration tool that takes pages from the playbooks of Facebook and Twitter.

Salesforce will begin selling the new software, called Chatter, next year at a price of $50 per user each month. The software works with Salesforce’s core customer management software to display “profiles” of employees and posts about projects they’re working on or customers they’ve visited. “I know more about these strangers on Facebook than I do about my own employees and what they’re working on,” Benioff said during a speech at the company’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. “I know when my friends went to the movies, but not when my VP of sales visited our top customer.”

Chatter pushes Salesforce, expected to reach $1.3 billion in revenues this year, into the crowded field for collaboration software. Salesforce is trying to expand beyond the customer management software that’s been its bread and butter. Microsoft’s SharePoint Server, an IBM product called Atlas that works with its Lotus e-mail software, and Google’s recently introduced Wave all offer business users the ability to share information and hold conversations on the Web.

Software developers will be able to use Chatter to build their own applications, Salesforce said. The move comes as some of the tech industry’s largest vendors are releasing tools that let programmers create cloud computing applications delivered over the Internet. Microsoft on Nov. 17 launched Windows Azure, software for letting Windows developers build cloud computing applications using familiar Microsoft technologies. Google and Amazon.com also offer tools for developers to build cloud applications.

Look for updated coverage on BusinessWeek.com, including excepts from an interview I’ll conduct with Benioff later today.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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