The Cloud Sherpas mobile team needs to stay ahead of the many trends that are affecting the mobile industry, and surely the most anticipated and discussed part of the mobile salesforce.com world right now is the evolution of Touch. Until this point, I have to say I have been considering Touch as something that was not quite ready for prime time. However, I am now pleased to see that Touch is definitely ready and available, albeit in a slightly different shape than I expected.
While at Dreamforce, I was on constant lookout for updates to the Touch marketing messages and technology. Luckily I came across a big pile of newly published copies of the Salesforce Touch Platform Mobile Development Guide, which I grabbed and immediately started to dissect. One of the key things to realize is that this is a book about a platform, not an app. Confusingly, there is also an app from salesforce.com called “Touch” available as a native app (with offline capabilities) and an HTML5 version.
Touch refers to two distinct things -
- Touch platform : A loose collection of technologies and a suggested approach to mobile development for salesforce.com
- Touch app : An HTML5 and Native mobile app front-end to Sales Cloud
Everyone wants the Touch platform to be a silver bullet to the often requested offline access to salesforce.com, which it is not. However, when you think about it, the likelihood of creating a generic go-anywhere-do-anything mobile replica of salesforce.com on a mobile device which probably has temporary or no internet connection is not really achievable or desirable.
In my view, a good offline approach to salesforce.com should focus on distinct, single use-cases which, if required, can intelligently queue or cache data as needed for later upload and vetting against the salesforce.com master copy. Perhaps this is why the descriptions of offline capabilities in the book leave it up to the developer to define, rather than tackling an impossible problem.
The Touch platform has a few major components, and I’m going to go out on a limb and describe these components in a slightly different way than the Touch platform book :
- Force.com for Touch – REST API for force.com + Visual Force mobile components which generate responsive HTML5
- Mobile Container – This is centered around Phone Gap which is a third-party approach to building Hybrid apps. A Hybrid app is a native app container with a generic user interface built using Visual Force for mobile. See the excellent description of the differences between Native, HTML5 and Hybrid in Chapter 1 of the book.
- Single sign-on
This description does ignore some of the subtleties described as part of the new release of Touch, but the above are the major points of interest to a client. Touch leverages the investment in salesforce.com, allows build for HTML5, Native or whatever, and users only need a single username/password.
Given the excitement that the announcement has generated and the numerous possibilities that exist for the usage of Touch, companies will continue to be hungry for information on how they can apply Touch in their organization.
Since many of the features of the Touch platform are existing technologies brought together into one suggested development approach, many of our customers are turning to us, as a development partner, to help unravel which technologies are needed and how to deploy them. And we are excited to help them along in their journey, discovering all the current (and future) ways that Touch can deliver value to their organization.
Touch at a glance:
- Touch platform is a collection of technologies intended to make mobile development in the salesforce.com environment easier
- Touch platform and the related documentation suggest a set of technology practices to be used when developing mobile applications for salesforce.com but this is not prescriptive
- Touch platform is inclusive – use whichever deployment solution is right for the problem at hand : Native, Hybrid or HTML5
- Touch app is the name for the front-end application which mobilizes aspects of Sales Cloud