Dreamforce 2012: Salesforce.com Launches Dropbox Enterprise Rival Chatterbox

Another Dropbox for business appears, but this time from one of the biggest cloud players in the world

Salesforce.com has joined the growing number of vendors hoping to challenge Dropbox in the business file sharing space.

Dropbox has been hit by a number of security problems in recent times, which some suggested damaged its business credentials, but responded to a hack earlier this year by adding two-factor authentication.

Yet others have continued to pick up on security and the need for better collaboration features, leading to a slew of “Dropbox for the enterprise” launches, from the likes of Box – a key Salesforce.com partner – and UK-based Huddle.

Today, at its annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Salesforce.com launched its own contender, Chatterbox, claiming it will “completely eliminate the need for Dropbox in the enterprise”. It is scheduled to be available in pilot the first half of 2013 and pricing will be announced at the time of general release.

Collaboration competition

A key differentiator is how Chatterbox integrates with Chatter, the company’s “Facebook for the enterprise”.  completely eliminate the need for Dropbox in the enterprise. Users will be notified of file changes or additions within their Chatter feed, whilst real-time sync across devices will enable employees to collaborate when mobile, Salesforce said.

The idea is to get users collaborating on files over Chatter, which has been given extra functionality. A new Messenger service has been added, providing IM capabilities, whilst the Influence feature lets Salesforce users check up on workers activity over Chatter, looking at how many posts and comments someone has made, or how many ‘likes’ they have received.

Parker Harris, co-founder of Salesforce.com, told delegates at the Dreamforce conference today that it could be used with Chatter Communities to send files not only between employees, but with customers too. Airline Virgin America has already been trialling such a set-up.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, said there were some “incredible technology breakthroughs with Chatterbox”.

Rival reaction

Rivals have already responded to Chatterbox. Aaron Levie, CEO and co-founder of Box, told TechWeekEurope he was not surprised Salesforce was planning to augment Chatter with additional file sharing capabilities, but was certain the company’s close collaboration with Salesforce.com would continue and Box would still be sold on the AppExchange.

“We still have a very strong relationshoip with salesforce. We will be keeping the partnership and relationship there,” he said.

Nevertheless, Levie said he didn’t see Chatterbox as “a whole separate product”. “What we think is customers need is a full platform.

“We believe that content management is more than just a feature,” Levie said. “We’ll continue to integrate Box with all the apps businesses run on, including Salesforce and Chatter, while staying singularly focused on our mission: pushing the edge of what’s possible in the content and collaboration space for our growing user base of 125,000 businesses and 12 million individuals.”

Over Twitter, he was less diplomatic. “Salesforce announces Chatterbox. I can’t tell if it took them 7 seconds or 9 seconds to think of that name,” read one tweet. “When a big company follows your footsteps, they might know the path you’ve been down, but not the one you’re taking next,” read another.

Alastair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle, the UK-based collaboration vendor which recently set up shop in the US, told TechWeekEurope Salesforce.com would have to prove it was offering more than just secure file-sharing if  it wanted to dethrone current market leaders, such as Dropbox and Google.

“While I’m sure Salesforce will do a pretty good job with Chatterbox, we’ll need to wait until next year to actually see the outcome. It’s becoming increasingly evident that today’s enterprises need much more than just secure file sharing,” Mitchell said.

“We’re continuing to see huge demand for content collaboration tools across the enterprise that replace SharePoint and include important sync and file sharing features, but go beyond these to provide a single secure platform for everyone in the enterprise to share knowledge – not just files. True collaboration needs to happen across the firewall, with the entire enterprise ecosystem of customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders, and this is a million miles away from just sharing files within an organisation.”

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