Salesforce.com hopes its new Chatter product will give businesses something to talk about.
The home screen of Chatter looks a lot like a Facebook home screen.
After beta testing the collaboration service since February, the company says the product is ready for mainstream use. Although it is designed to compete with Microsoft's SharePoint or IBM's Lotus Notes, Salesforce.com aptly describes Chatter as sort of a Facebook for businesses.
Instead of following old high school classmates, Chatter allows workers to follow co-workers, specific business documents or pieces of data. A sales representative, for example, could follow a pending deal and get updates whenever details on the transaction are updated, while a support worker could choose to follow a bug report to get updates when a solution is found. Chatter works behind the firewall, so company information stored on Chatter can't be seen outside of the company running it.
"We feel very excited that we have a killer app on our hands with Chatter," said Salesforce.com senior vice president Kraig Swensrud. "Facebook has really trained the entire internet on how to collaborate. No one has to go to a training class to figure out how to use Chatter.
Chatter is now included at no extra charge for workers already subscribing to either Salesforce.com's own software or products that run on its Force.com platform, Swensrud said. Companies can also add Chatter for additional workers not using any of those products for AU$20 per user per month.
The company is also pitching Chatter as a platform of its own, encouraging developers and software companies writing programs for Force.com to integrate Chatter into their own applications. The company said 35 new Chatter-enabled applications are being added to the company's collection, adding to the 20 that were already there. BMC Software and CA are among the companies whose products will tie into Chatter, Swensrud said.
Chatter works on PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones and BlackBerry devices, with plans for an Android application later this year. Users can update their status messages for other followers to see, but for now, Salesforce.com isn't building in instant messaging.
"That would be a natural extension that would be something we would do down the line," Swensrud said.
Both Microsoft and Google have internal testing of Twitter-like programs that could be made available to businesses.