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Summing Up the Dreamforce Keynote

I was planning to put this in my other post (see previous), but I was forced to clutter that space with live updates when I reached my Twitter limit. I’m not the only person who hit that particular wall–friend and respected blogger Esteban Kolsky got locked out as well, and I’m sure a number of others were as well. Look for Esteban’s post on why this is a bad thing, coming soon to a link near you once he posts it (and I update my blogroll–I’ve been a bit lax).

By now you’ve likely heard a fair amount about today’s biggest news, Salesforce Chatter. To sum it up nice and tight, Chatter is a new, more collaborative and intuitive interface for business applications. It’s the Collaboration Cloud. If Facebook and Twitter had a child, and that child grew up and got an MBA, it would be Salesforce Chatter. Feeds, status updates, groups, messaging–it’s all there, along with the dashboards and everything else we’ve come to expect from good CRM. Chatter can integrate social contacts from customers into the mix and provide context for it all. Even better, Chatter will be standard on all editions of Salesforce.com, Force.com, and related products. Outsiders can acquire access for $50 per user, per month.

At least, that’s what Chatter will be. It’s not due until the end of 2010, which is a long way off. Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff went out of his way to point out the portion of Salesforce.com’s safe harbor statement that says the company is not responsible for what might be vaporware. That’s out of character for Marc, who usually waves his hand in the general direction of the statement and makes a joke.

But the other thing that was out of character was the level of energy Marc brought to the event. This is not to say he’s usually laid back when presenting–far from it. Today’s level of bombast, though, was one step beyond. Either Marc Benioff is very excited about his new Collaboration Cloud (which is likely), or he wants us to believe he’s very excited about it (which is also likely, CEOs having certain responsibilities and whatnot). Chatter is a big deal, and it will change the way business gets done, once it’s released.

I asked about just how Chatter will change business processes, but Marc’s take on the situation is that business is already changing to accept this model, and Chatter is the first tool that allows companies to do so securely, in an orderly manner, and with scalability. However, as Kraig Swensrud (SVP of product marketing) said in a followup interview, Chatter is not Twitter or Facebook. Just as we use business email and personal email differently, the internal and external feeds of Chatter will have their own character. Surfing the Web was once a workplace taboo; now it’s how many of us do our jobs. Salesforce.com hopes that Chatter will be the same.

There’s plenty more to say about this Collaboration Cloud thing, but there’s also plenty more for me to learn before I go further. My next post will probably deal with Salesforce.com’s messaging, not its applications.