Salesforce.com announces 'Chatter' social-networking app

Salesforce.com opened up its annual Dreamforce conference on Wednesday by previewing Salesforce Chatter, a social-networking application the vendor dubbed a "Facebook for the Enterprise."

The upcoming release bundles a variety of now-familiar features, such as personal profiles, real-time feeds from contacts and applications, groups and alerts. It can also integrate with Google Apps, the popular Twitter microblogging service and Facebook.

Salesforce.com is also providing a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) for tying other applications to Chatter. It will also be available on Windows Mobile devices, iPhones and Blackberries. The system will employ the same underlying security and sharing model as other applications built with the company's Force.com development platform.

Chatter will be available "early next year," CEO Marc Benioff said during a keynote address. It will be included in paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com, and also available as a Chatter Edition that also includes Salesforce Content and Force.com for US$50 per user per month.

While Chatter's general premise isn't new, Salesforce.com's entry raises the competitive stakes for the many small, specialized vendors hoping to sell social networking platforms into enterprises. Moreover, social networking capabilities are a natural counterpart to CRM systems, given the latter's emphasis on continuous communication with customers and suppliers.

(More to follow.)

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