Yet Another Collaboration Option - InformationWeek
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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Super Bowl ads will tout's new 'freemium' service. But is microblogging the best way to keep up on corporate matters? And will any one tool be used by all? launched on Monday, and to promote its newly mainstream collaboration service, the vendor will advertise the service during Sunday's Super Bowl half-time show.

The software-as-a-service vendor's two ads will feature the Black Eyed Peas, the half-time act for the game and a popular band that also performed at's massive Dreamforce event in December.

Considering that Super Bowl XLV ads cost a cool $3 million per 30-second spot just for the air time, that's no small investment in what describes as a "freemium" service.

The question for would-be customers is, will Chatter fill a gap or will it overlap?

Chatter was launched in 2010 as a built-in, social-network-style collaboration application for customers. The app lets users of the vendor's sales and service apps add and update personal profiles, enter status updates, share files and follow group, user and activity updates. A $15-per-user, per-month Chatter Plus upgrade adds access to custom apps and objects, dashboards, reports, workflows, calendars, tasks and events.

Salesforce recently added Chatter Free as a way to let customers spread collaboration to customer employees who don't happen to use the vendor's sales or service applications. Salesforce clearly realizes that collaboration doesn't succeed if it's limited along departmental lines. is a next step, an open Web-based service that lets any organization build a business-oriented social network even if it isn't subscribing to any applications.

What's in it for Salesforce?

For one thing, a free social networking service for the business masses will probably generate plenty of customer leads for sales and service applications. But Chatter itself is also expected to be a sticky app with a huge potential for generating revenue through value-added services, such as those included in the Chatter Plus service. That's the expected premium in "freemium."

The business model is proven. Yammer, for example, is a two-year-old company that claims some 90,000 user companies. Basic Yammer collaboration is free, and the company charges $5 per user, per month for an enterprise upgrade that adds administrative and security controls, Active Directory sync, broadcast messages and keyword monitoring, among other features.

The enterprise social networking space also includes Bantam Live, Jive, Socialcast, Socialtext and Success Factors' CubeTree. Gartner expects enterprise social software revenue to reach $770 million in 2011, up 15.7% from 2010 revenue of $664 million.

Can Chatter's Facebook/Twitter-style microblogging approach supplant more conventional collaboration approaches and Web 2.0-enhanced mainstream products such Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook or IBM Lotus Connections and Quickr?

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