[caption id="attachment_1850" align="aligncenter" width="616" caption="Salesforce's Schema Builder tool in operation."] [/caption] Until recently, the average office worker’s professional requirements were relatively simple, at least when it came to equipment: a desk, a chair, some sort of writing instrument, and (once it was invented) a phone. Then came PCs, followed by cloud computing and networks and smartphones and all the other gear that quickly proved essential (or “essential”) to conducting work. Your average employee, loaded down with a laptop and a tablet and a smartphone, now wants apps with ever-deepening layers of functionality. Hence initiatives such as Salesforce’s new “Summer ’12” release, an update to the Salesforce platform with new features for mobile app development: native geo-location fields, the better for building location-aware business apps; a “Schema Builder” tool for dragging-and-dropping databases with instant REST APIs; and Chatter REST APIs for introducing collaboration abilities within database.com objects. Summer ’12 also includes a streaming API for building real-time apps, as well as the ability to institute granular security controls for “trusted apps providers.” Salesforce has also instituted improvements to ISVforce, its enterprise-app-building platform, including a deeper integration with the AppExchange marketplace. Those improvements include push updates and Run Apex logic on install/uninstall. Although Salesforce has operated in the business-cloud arena for some time, it’s facing increased competition from some of its biggest rivals. Oracle recently threw its traditional caution about the cloud to the proverbial wind, introducing an Oracle Cloud with a variety of enterprise-grade applications, including platform and social services. If that wasn’t enough, other tech giants such as IBM and Microsoft haven’t exactly slowed down their own cloud efforts. Last week, rumors abounded that Microsoft would acquire Yammer, a Salesforce rival that bills itself as “The Enterprise Social Network.” Were Microsoft to successfully layer its existing products with Yammer’s assets, which include a cloud-based network for posting files and crowd-sourcing projects, it would certainly compel Salesforce to respond in some decisive way. Salesforce has also made some big moves of its own, acquiring social-marketing firm Buddy Media for $689 million. That purchase was widely viewed as a way to take advantage of the increasing interest in social-networking tools for advertisers and marketers. It also counterbalanced similar acquisitions by Oracle and Google.   Image: Salesforce