Salesforce’s Company Communities: A Cloudy Intranet, which positions itself as the poster child for cloud computing, has announced plans to launch a social enterprise application designed to replace the good ol’ corporate Intranet.

The application, dubbed Company Communities, is based on Salesforce’s existing Chatter application. It layers social-networking functions atop what’s largely a mobile client for a company’s own CRM data. Users are able to select streams of updates relevant to them, adding their own comments, questions or other contributions as the need arises. Think of it more as a corporate version of Facebook, rather than the stodgy Intranet that dominates so many office environments.

In March, Salesforce announced an update of Chatter with several enhancements, including the ability to access and modify data within the CRM system using Android or iOS. That gave users the ability to get up-to-the-minute information and act on it directly from a mobile device, rather than being limited to read-only accounts, according to Salesforce.

At the core of Company Communities is customer data from the CRM system or those third-party applications integrated with it, albeit with additional focus on the aforementioned social-media features.

The ability to receive, discuss and act on current business events is quickly becoming necessary as a way to keep mobile employees productive and involved wherever they are, according to Frank Gens, analyst at IDC.

Other companies are also integrating data-sharing applications with social ones. IBM’s Connections can interoperate with Microsoft applications such as SharePoint and Outlook, for example; similar platforms also rely on tools that analyze social networks, as well as integration with line-of-business applications. Microsoft has gone down a similar road with Yammer, which it acquired for $1.2 billion last year.

Salesforce has announced no ship dates or pricing, except to say the service would be available later this year and will be priced per user/per month.


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