Salesforce has been promising to add real-time features since it acquired the startup Dimdim in January 2011. A preview of the instant messaging feature arrived as part of an October batch of feature updates.
Chatter Messenger instant messaging and presence will be generally available as of June, while a "limited pilot" of the screen sharing feature is scheduled for the third quarter of 2012. The real-time products will be offered as free additions to Chatter for both Salesforce.com customers and users of the free Chatter.com version.
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"We believe real-time is a core feature," Dave King, director of Chatter product marketing, said in an interview. "This is going to be a really important part of the social enterprise." While many businesses use either consumer products like Yahoo Instant Messenger or corporate instant messaging tools, Chatter Messenger will distinguish itself with "real-time IM or screen sharing directly from a business workflow," according to King. That means participants in an asynchronous discussion on Chatter will be able to see who is online and available for real-time collaboration about the same topic.
"Everybody is now a click away from having these real-time, contextual conversations," King said. Chatter Messenger also supports group chats for up to 10 participants.
A just-released Forrester Research report on enterprise activity streams identifies Chatter as one of the leaders in the market segment for tools built around a social feed, with Yammer and Tibco's Tibbr closely matching Chatter in functionality and vision. Tibbr also includes an instant-messaging feature, as do some of the broader social products like IBM Connections and Jive Software's social business platform.
Chatter's great strength is its integration with Salesforce.com CRM, and one of the other Chatter enhancements Salesforce is delivering capitalizes on that connection. For big organizations, the ability to filter the stream is critical to making social collaboration useful, and Chatter users can now filter on custom criteria--for example, users could filter a feed for just those conversations related to sales opportunities, as identified in the CRM system, with an estimated value over $50,000. The criteria can be based on any object in the Force.com platform, according to King.
In combination with Chatter Messenger, a manager could filter for the biggest opportunities, identify those requiring his input, and launch a real-time collaboration to push the sale forward, King said.
The logic behind Chatter screen sharing is the same: allowing users to launch a visual, show-and-tell collaboration session from a Chatter discussion or user profile, King said. At least initially, Salesforce.com is targeting its screen-sharing technology at collaboration between the users on the enterprise social network. In other words, it won't be competing with products like Cisco's WebEx or Citrix's GoToMeeting (which is what King used for this product briefing).
King showed a demo of the screen-sharing app, but he said it still needs to go through a pilot project shakedown, just as the instant messaging app did last year. "The customers who have gotten the early preview are excited about it."
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