Salesforce.com's Chatter social computing service is now available to a limited number of private beta participants. Salesforce.com's first shot across the social computing bow was fired back in November when they announced the service, now that the wraps are coming off we'll see if Salesforce can compete against the likes of Microsoft, IBM, a plethora of emerging vendors, and even Cisco.
I think Chatter has the potential to be extremely disruptive. Salesforce brings some inherent strengths to the table, it's arguably the most widely deployed software as a service, via the SaaS delivery model Salesforce can bundle Chatter with the services it's already providing to end-user customers, in effect going around IT and undercutting more centralized attempts to bring social computing to the enterprise via stand-alone platforms such as Confluence, Jive, and SocialText, or as add-ons to collaboration tools such as SharePoint or the Notes/Domino/Quickr suite. Salesforce also points to the opportunity for its development partners to integrate Chatter into the tens of thousands of Force.Com developers, but to succeed Chatter must evolve beyond a Salesforce-based application and offer the opportunity to integrate into other collaboration applications. It must also overcome concerns related to compliance and security of storing potentially discoverable conversations in the cloud.