Salesforce Touch brings fight to Adobe, Microsoft

With the launch of Salesforce Touch Platform, San is signaling that it intends to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Adobe Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in serving developers as a multi-platform environment, an analyst says.
Salesforce announced its new mobile development platform on Wednesday, one year after announcing its Salesforce Touch mobile app in beta mode. Now the full version of that app is available and developers have a new framework to work with for mobile apps. It supports HTML5, native, and hybrid models so an app can be coded once and then deployed to many devices including iOS and Android smartphones or tablets.
 With the growing adoption of smartphones and tablets and more employees bringing those devices into the workspace, many enterprises are looking to build out in-house apps on mobile platforms. Developers need the right tools to help them do it – especially if coding for a mobile environment isn’t their cup of tea. Salesforce wants to see its 800,000 plus registered developers adopting Touch to make custom mobile apps, says Adam Seligman, vice-president of developer relations at Salesforce.
“We’re off to the races and now the developer community is unleashed to write HTML5 and native apps,” he says.
Customers of as well as members of the free developer program can access the Touch Platform now. The mobile software development kit is available for download on Github. With the Touch platform, Salesforce is also putting a horse in the race to be seen as the best vendor to build a multi-platform environment, says Tim Hickernell, lead research analyst of enterprise applications at Info-Tech Research Group.
That puts them against the likes of software giant Microsoft Corp. which has a legacy developer stack stretching back years and is set to release its touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system next month. “They’re a little late to the game to break through,” as a development platform, Hickernell says. “Everything is against them because they’re the latest entry to the market. Currently, Salesforce AppExchange – the market for third-party apps –is host to 1,600 apps and has executed millions of installs. That has been done on the back of, the development platform that’s been accessible to developers since 2007.
Montreal-based Salesforce partner Buzz Solutions provides one example of where developer adoption of Touch could face friction. Having built solution for the consumer retail space on the platform, Buzz has built its own mobile platform to serve its customers and it’s not eager to adopt Salesforce Touch just yet, president Georges Haddad says.
 “We’re not delivering to the masses, we’re going after a target market,” he says. Specifically, Buzz customers need to be able to capture information in an offline mode and upload it once an Internet connection becomes available. That’s not a capability supported by the Touch platform yet, he says.
But in terms of offering a seamless mobile experience, Salesforce is ahead of many vendors with its cloud-based delivery approach to mobile, Hickernell says. For enterprises with investment in Salesforce’s products, in-house developers now has a better toolset to work with. That includes support for native iOS coding, HTML5, Java coding including Eclipse and jQuerty, and objective C code, Seligman says.
The platform includes authentication technology OAuth 2.0 and a user permissions system. What it could still use, according to Hickernell, is a way to encrypt stored data an access encrypted data from storage.
 “That’s where mobile security is really important,” he says. “The challenge is securing the data on the tablet. Enterprises are absolutely horrified of mobile devices as a potential data leak.”
Salesforce developers at Dreamforce also learned of a new Canvas feature that allows any app, coded in any language, to run inside of the Salesforce user interface via an iframe-style window.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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