Salesforce Touch promises write-once, deploy-anywhere mobile development

New platform equips enterprise developers with tools for building native, HTML5, and hybrid apps for mobile devices this week at Dreamforce rolled out Salesforce Touch, a new mobile app development platform that aims to provide enterprise developers with a single "write once, deploy anywhere" framework for building mobile apps that can run on any device. The goal is to provide companies with a means of connecting employees' ever-expanding arsenal of mobile devices with previously inaccessible enterprise applications and data.

Judging by the comprehensive documentation, Salesforce has injected enterprise-class development features into its Touch Platform, which the company says powers its own mobile apps. The list includes an enterprise container for hybrid applications, support for HTML5 development, native REST API wrappers, OAuth access token management, and APIs for both social and mobile.

The Salesforce Touch Platform offers three ways for developers to build their mobile apps: They can create native apps specific to iOS or Android while using the support development tools and languages, including Xcode and Objective-C for iOS and Eclipse and Java with Android. They can also create HTML5 apps, which are delivered via a mobile Web browser and use standard Web technologies like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. Finally, they can create hybrid apps, which according to Salesforce HTML5 and native development by "wrapping a Web app inside the Salesforce Mobile Container."

Said Mobile Container (also known as the Salesforce Mobile SDK 1.3) is among the three core components of the Salesforce Touch Platform. The other two are for Touch and Identity. for Touch represents a new layer of services that are focused on developing and administering mobile applications. It includes mobile REST APIs, which use standard Web protocols to provide access to enterprise data and services. According to Salesforce, developers can quickly expose their business data as REST APIs to various smartphone, tablet, and Web UIs. The REST APIs provide a single location for enforcing access, security, and common policies for all types of devices.

Also part of for Touch are social REST APIs, honed for Chatter, which aim to equip developers with a means of injecting social networks and collaboration features into their applications. The Chatter REST APIs provide access to the Chatter feed, according to Salesforce, as well as the social graph of user connections. Mobile applications can consume or post items to a user or group, or they leverage the social graph to enable instant collaboration between connected users, according to the company. for Touch also includes mobile-policy management features, with which admins can enforce enterprise security policies on mobile applications, using two-factor authentication, device PIN protection, and password rotation. Admins also can enable or disable user access to particular mobile apps.

Finally, for Touch embraces geolocation to provide location-based information.

The Mobile Container, per Salesforce, can be used to develop both native Objective C iOS or Java Android applications; it can also be used to provide a native container for HTML5-based hybrid apps. The kit includes wizards for iOS and tooling for Android intended to speed up development.

Among the SDK's features are native device services, which allow developers to add camera, location, and contacts into their applications using common APIs for iOS and Android devices; secure offline storage enabling developers to build apps that can continue to function when a device has little or no network connectivity; and Client OAuth authentication support, intended to free developers from having to rebuild log-in pages and general authentication in their mobile applications.

The third core component to Touch is dubbed Identity, and as the name implies, it aims to provide a single enterprise identity and sign-on service for connecting mobiles devices with company data and services. Among its features, it can draw on consumer-identity providers like Facebook for personalizing apps with customer social data.

Salesforce Touch Platform is generally available now and included as part of The Mobile SDK and other mobile components are available on GitHub. Identity is scheduled to be generally available in 2013.

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