Chatterbox

Salesforce gets into the file sharing biz (again)

September 6, 2013: 12:13 PM ET

The company's latest file-syncing product is better, yes. Will it draw in streams of new customers? Not likely.

Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff

FORTUNE -- Does the world really need another file storage service? Probably not, but Salesforce.com (CRM) claims its new product, Salesforce Files, isn't just any ordinary "repository."

The San Francisco-based company announced an earlier version of the tool, a file-sharing service called Chatterbox, at last year's Dreamforce event (its annual customer lovefest, hosted by its uber-enthusiastic CEO Marc Benioff). But it says it has evolved the product into something much more expansive. The new and improved Salesforce Files, unveiled at a press event on Thursday, lets users access any file directly through their Salesforce feed. That means that anyone using the company's sales, service, or marketing software tools can access files that normally reside elsewhere -- like on Box or Microsoft's (MSFT) SharePoint -- without having to open a separate application.

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"For the first time ever, customer companies can unlock files from third-party repositories such as Box, Google Drive, or SharePoint and make them mobile and social, all on a single trusted platform," the company said in a press release issued this week.

Wasting less time on looking for documents sounds great and all, but it probably won't move the needle on Salesforce's overall business. In other words, it's a "nice-to-have" feature, but not likely to attract more net new customers. Nor is it an entirely new product category for Salesforce, which has dabbled in the space for a while now. And while Salesforce is able to allow for easy access of files inside its own applications, plenty of customers have already turned to Box, Dropbox, Hightail (formerly YouSendIt -- what kind of rebranding geniuses are these software companies hiring?) and a slew of other providers for their file sharing and syncing needs. Even if Salesforce's version can access files from within these disparate other providers, it's still offering another repository of sorts -- or rather, a repository for repositories.

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Salesforce is now the top provider of customer-relationship management software -- which remains its bread and butter -- and one of the top cloud companies around. But it has had to stretch outside of its comfort zone, developing software that appeals not just to sales teams but to other divisions across organizations. Salesforce Files makes sense given that the trend is to provide as much functionality and social features as possible within -- not outside -- of existing applications. But it's no magic bullet for Salesforce. Investors, customers, and partners will be watching the company come this November, when the next Dreamforce confab takes place in San Francisco. Expect to see more new products, plus some high-wattage keynotes, then.

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