Mobile app development tools: A buyer's guide
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
The Salesforce1 Platform from Salesforce is a software as a service (SaaS) mobile application development platform used for the creation of both consumer- and employee-oriented Android and Apple iOS apps. It is marketed as a complete service for app management, assisting with a number of processes -- from app creation through app distribution. It can accommodate individual developers or large-scale development teams.
The platform features proprietary Salesforce integrated development environments (IDEs) -- Force.com, Heroku and ExactTarget Fuel -- in one place, giving developers a range of tools at their disposal. These IDEs can be used to produce standalone applications, as well as apps that integrate with other Salesforce products and third-party legacy systems, such as Microsoft, Oracle or SAP.
Force.com incorporates REST and SOAP APIs to modify, allow access to and report on company data. These APIs also allow developers to build in notifications for when company data changes. Developers also can build custom user interfaces with the integrated Visualforce framework, as well as create and modify application components using a convenient drag-and-drop function. Force.com also features security functions that allow developers to build in roles-based access permissions for the app and the data it controls.
Another IDE of the Salesforce1 Platform is Heroku, which allows apps to be built using Go, Java, Node.js, PHP, Python and Ruby. This gives developers a range of development languages to choose from. Developers also can use Heroku to integrate created applications with existing Salesforce apps through the use of open source APIs. Also available is Heroku's Elements Marketplace, which provides developers with nearly 150 add-ons for analytics, monitoring, user notifications, security features and testing.
Four editions of the platform are available: Force.com Enterprise App, which costs $25 per user, per month; Force.com App Bundle, which costs $80 per user, per month; Force.com Unlimited Apps, which costs $150 per user, per month; and Connected Customer App Package, for which price is determined on a case-by-case basis. Each edition is billed annually. A comparison of these editions and their differences can be found on the platform's spec sheet. Editions can be purchased directly from Salesforce's website.
Salesforce offers a free 30-day trial of the platform, which can be extended by contacting the company's sales team. The trial includes all essential features needed to build and run custom apps, as well as access to AppExchange, Salesforce's version of an app store.
Salesforce has an extensive amount of support resources available for its users. These resources include product documentation, webinars and workbooks. The company also has a dedicated developer community, which offers a number of technical and peer-to-peer resources that can be accessed directly from its website.
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