Salesforce.com launches “Facebook for enterprise”

This event, held at the sprawling Moscone Conference Centre, could only be happening in the US. From the giant inflatable clouds hovering above the conference buildings, to the 30ft long stage (Marc Benioff looked more like a rock star than a CEO dancing around the thing) to the whooping and cries of "Yeah!" from the audience, there has never been such a collection of geeks enthusing about the cloud.

But this is no ordinary tech conference. Today Benioff, whose firm has over 70,000 customers worldwide, has announced the "Big secret" that his firm has been working on for the past four years. Chatter, the new social interface for enterprise, piggybacks the success of Twitter and Facebook to bring live status updates, commenting, interaction and transparency to business.

I try to stay cynical during the demonstration, but it’s hard to keep my jaw off the desk. Imagine every single deal, opportunity, lead and product being seamlessly integrated into your CRM system. Chatter does this. Here’s an example: You’re meeting a customer to try and sell them some stuff. Your colleague can comment on the meeting, offer advice on closing, even upload some slides to use during your pitch. Meanwhile, a live Twitter feed is posting every tweet about the firm and the competitor that’s also vying for the same business.

It’s wonderful, but terrifying.

Chatter is being rolled out in Spring next year. It will become automatically available to existing Salesforce.com customers but Benioff is so confident of the new product that he’s released a special "Chatter" version of his Saas offering for $50 per employeee to all those people that want to "chat" with colleagues, without signing up for the full salesforce shebang.

"I’ve got 5,000 friends on Facebook," says Benioff. "And I know more about these strangers than I do about my employees or my key customers. I know when I’ve been tagged in an old college photo, but I’ve no idea when an important deal document has been updated. This is all about to change with Chatter."

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