Salesforce.com is placing HTML5 at the forefront of its mobile strategy with an upcoming product, Touch.Salesforce.com, that will automatically render its applications on touch-enabled devices like Apple's iPad.
"They can access all the data, and all the customizations they've done in Salesforce.com come through," said Al Falcione, vice president of product marketing.
The applications will provide both read and write access for customers, according to Salesforce.com. Its own core applications as well as any custom applications built natively on the Force.com platform will work with the new service.
Salesforce.com isn't giving up on developing dedicated native applications for mobile OSes, as it has in the past, but believes that HTML5's cross-platform adaptability makes sense for its core applications, since customers make frequent tweaks to the software and don't want to have to constantly download new versions, Falcione said.
The company considers native mobile development better for "single-purpose, quick-access" types of applications, he added.
Salesforce.com's plans also speak to the red-hot popularity of touch-enabled devices, noted analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "The shift is happening," he said. "Tablets will outstrip PCs as the devices of choice in business. Moving to touch delivers what users will want."
Touch.Salesforce.com will be available early next year. Pricing hasn't been determined, Falcione said.
Also Wednesday, Salesforce is expected to discuss improvements to its Chatter collaboration and social networking platform.
Some 100,000 companies are using Chatter "actively" today, according to Falcione. However, he couldn't provide specific numbers on the actual percentage of employees within companies using Chatter regularly.
A set of new capabilities called Chatter Now will include user presence, chat and screen sharing. The technology was gained through Salesforce.com's acquisition of collaboration vendor DimDim.
Chatter users will also be able to invite people outside their companies to collaborate with them by setting up private groups. External users can only view materials related to the Chatter groups they belong to, and are "clearly labeled as someone external," Falcione said.
A third Chatter announcement focuses on integration. Customers will be able to take advantage of a set of REST (representational state transfer) programming interfaces for tying Chatter to other web services. Salesforce.com has also built a Chatter connector for Microsoft SharePoint, but for the most part, such offerings will be left for partners to build, Falcione said. "[SharePoint] was a big enough opportunity for us," he said.
The presence and group features will be available later this year, with screen-sharing expected for release in early 2012.
The Chatter news will be delivered under Salesforce.com's overall marketing theme for the conference, "the social enterprise," which CEO Marc Benioff honed during a series of smaller events held earlier this year.
One component involves the notion of "social customer" profiles. Traditionally, companies have gathered data points such as a customer's name and e-mail address, but social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide much more fodder for rounding out the picture and "to engage and have a deeper conversation," Falcione said.
Salesforce.com will also discuss how its customers can develop internal social networks, as well as ones for their customers and even individual products.
While such talk will no doubt eat up a fair chunk of Dreamforce's running time, it fails to relay the breadth of Salesforce.com's business goals.
In recent times the company has made deeper forays into Web application development, with the acquisition of companies such as Heroku. It is also hoping to find success selling database processing as a service through its Database.com product, which will enter general availability this week