Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) just stepped up the innovation pace. On Tuesday, the cloud software maker launched Salesforce Wear and Wear Developer Pack, two tools that software developers can use to create applications that work on wearable devices and cater exclusively to business organizations.
The applications can cover everything from marketing and sales to customer service and can be contextually aware. Context-aware applications hold the promise to deliver more value to users compared with location-aware applications since they are more adaptable to their needs. They serve as tour guides by presenting sensory information about the user's current environment.
"We give people starter code that they can modify and use for themselves," Daniel Debow, senior vice president of emerging technologies, told Fox Business.
Will these first-of-their-kind tools be the stepping stone to explore a whole new business world?
Major players on board
At the heart of the Salesforce Wear program is the Developer Pack, a collection of publicly accessible or open-source reference applications, open-source code, demos, and documentations. Developers can use this program to create new business-centric applications or build on existing ones on the Salesforce1 platform. Those who wish to get their hands on Salesforce Wear can sign up for a free edition to try out the reference applications and examine the underlying code. Overall, the platform is meant for organizations that are just starting to experiment with wearables, not for real-world customer use. At least, not yet.
To kick-start this initiative the company introduced six ready-made applications, including one that works with Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) Gear 2 smartwatch and allows users to check who is attending a meeting or what topics will be covered.
For Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) high-tech specs, Google Glass, the company built a service application designed to provide on-site service technicians with repair history data by connecting to the Salesforce Service Cloud. In addition, Salesforce created a notification application that integrates with Android Wear.
Other early, official partners include Pebble's smartwatch, Myo, the gesture control armband from Thalmic Labs, OMsignal's biometric fitness tracker, and Binoyn's Nymi bracelet that recognizes the wearer's identity based on his/her cardiac rhythm. Semiconductor and software design company ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) is also a partner in the Salesforce Wear ecosystem.
Staying ahead of the mobile curve
Wearables, while still in their infancy, are "the next phase of the mobile revolution," Dedow said in a press release. Salesforce wants to be at the forefront of this revolution.
This developer kit represents the first in a series of steps in the company's broader attempt to lure developers, senior product manager Kevin Ota told Fox Business. Eventually, Salesforce plans to hold "hackathons" and setup workshops at its trade events around the world to introduce the Wear ecosystem to its 1.5 million developers.
The company's early entry into enterprise-focused wearable applications gives it a head start over potential rivals that are interested in capitalizing on wearables. Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), for instance, focuses mainly on the effect that wearables could have on global mobile data volumes. However, the company has also been trying to make waves in the "wearables for work" market. Recently, it partnered with audio technology pioneer Plantronics to create Plantronics Aware, an Android application designed for the Cisco Android IP phone DX650. The solution delivers unique benefits, such as seamless call transfer, for those using the smart desk phone in conjunction with Plantronics' Voyager Legend Bluetooth headset, a sensor-based wearable tech device.
Apart from Salesforce, some other companies, including Google and Samsung, have released software-development kits for wearables or added wearable components to their existing kits. Even so, Salesforce is the only software player that offers a comprehensive solution, which caters directly to enterprise developers. Most importantly, the fact that the Salesforce Wear platform works with six device types enables the company to spread out compatibility, giving it an edge over competitors like Cisco.
The business ramifications
The Wear Developer Kit is designed to provide developers with a low-cost and easy-to-handle platform to work on applications that integrate with Salesforce services. Salesforce will make money from businesses that connect to Wear and license the applications. In this way, the company is looking to deepen its relationship with its customers.
Moreover, so far, corporate adoption of wearables has been hampered by privacy concerns as well as the lack of business-related applications to run on the devices. Salesforce, by tapping into this market early, not only could have a say on how this market evolves, but also could help push wearables further into the mainstream.
Salesforce is going up against some of the big names in the "Internet of Things" space with a number of applications and an inventive ecosystem that respond to the business world's actual and immediate needs. Looking ahead, as the mobile revolution moves forward, wearable devices have the potential to change the way companies conduct business. Salesforce is laying the groundwork for this change.