Salesforce pushes on-demand development

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Salesforce pushes on-demand development

Customers encouraged to make custom apps.

On-demand software vendor Salesforce.com is pushing further into the enterprise software space with its Winter '07 release and a first beta of its Apex programming environment. 

Both products focus on AppExchange, an initiative that allows users and developers to create custom applications on top of the Salesforce.com service. The strategy also includes an online store and development centres in California. 

Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive at Salesforce.com, said at a company event in San Francisco that AppExchange would become an online marketplace, similar to EBay, for companies looking to develop on-demand business software. 

"We want you to be the next Salesforce.com," he explained. "We want to give you everything you need to be totally successful in on-demand."

Salesforce.com, which is mainly known for its Web-based customer relationship management software, said that the strategy was inspired by sites like YouTube and eBay, which facilitate the exchange of goods and services between parties but do not offer any products of their own.

"We think that Apex is the starting gun of the same revolution we have seen on the consumer side," said George Hu, chief marketing officer at Salesforce.com.

Winter '07 is now available to all Salesforce.com customers. The new software features a service that manages call centres, as well as better support for AppExchange applications and a more customisable interface.

Apex is based on Salesforce.com's internal developer tools, and allows users to develop on-demand services that draw straight from Salesforce.com's database, according to Parker Harris, co-founder and executive vice president of technology at Salesforce.com.

"We are giving you all the power that I have been building for the past seven or eight years. You are really riding on the backs of our success," said Harris.

Much in the way that gaming consoles provide a platform for game developers to deliver products, Benioff hopes that Apex will serve as a platform for the delivery of on-demand business software.

"What we really want is to make our partners a success," he said. "We want a killer app to emerge on our platform."

Michael Dortch, principal business analyst for IT infrastructure at Robert Frances Group, told vnunet.com that opening Apex to customers could give the company an edge over competitors such as SAP and Oracle, which have vast resources to invest in development. 

"The development of business software is always a shifting balance between technology expertise and business expertise," explained Dortch.

"The Apex platform does not have to empower better developers than Microsoft or Oracle or SAP. All it has to do is encourage a critical mass of professionals who have expertise worth encoding." 
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