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Salesforce.com is today expected to release its Facebook for businesses against established enterprise collaboration software from Microsoft and IBM.

The software-as-a-service giant will announce its Chatter service is generally available for the 77,300 customers using other aspects of its hosted platform - the announcement will be made at Salesforce's Cloudforce 2010 conference in San Jose, California.

Salesforce highlighted Chatter applications would be available on Apple's iPad and iPhone.

Salesforce chairman and chief executive Marc Benioff in a statement called Chatter the most exciting thing he's worked on in his career.

The service combines feeds, profiles, status updates, groups and lets you exchange documents and presentations. Chatter is built using Chatter APIs and uses Google's Developer Toolkit for Google Apps and the Google App Engine.

Unveiled in November 2009, Chatter hit private beta in February this year with 100 companies initially participating.

Salesforce hopes that by extending its core CRM platform using Chatter, it can offer customers a cloud-based, Web 2.0-style business collaboration platform that's flexible and cheaper than staples such as Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange and IBM's Lotus Notes.

Chatter is included for free with paying licenses for Salesforce's CRM and Force.com platform, while Chatter-only licenses are available to customers of Salesforce.com's Professional Edition, Enterprise Edition or Unlimited Edition for $15 per user, per month. As a hosted service, customers won't need to run their own servers further cutting costs and overhead. ®

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