Salesforce goes à la carte

By on is planning to offer a new per-use billing option allowing users to buy individual connections to its service rather than pay a monthly fee..

The vendor pitched the new pricing structure to customers and partners at a special event in San Francisco.

Customers will be able to purchase individual connections to Salesforce for 99 cents until the end of 2008, when the price will jump to US$5.

The new system is an effort to bring more occasional users to the service.

"[Customers] are building new kinds of applications that are not the heavy-use ones we have seen with CRM," said Salesforce president Mark Benioff. "Customers are saying that they want new pricing models."

The idea is to expand beyond frequently-used services to "casual use" applications such as vacation requests, according to Ariel Kelman, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce.

"The way to think about it is that different models apply to different uses, " he said.

Kelman explained that the new structure is designed to bring in more users at companies that already use Salesforce, and to allow occasional access to organisations which would otherwise not subscribe to the service.

Analysts were generally in favour of the new pricing structures, but warned of possible pitfalls.

Sheryl Kingstone, director of enterprise research at Yankee Group, said that the plan should be especially appealing to large firms.

But she warned that issues could arise over length of use, i.e. whether connections will time-out over the course of a day.

Kingstone also had concerns over the planned price jump in 2009. "I would like to see the pricing stay at 99 cents," she said.

The analyst added that the price appeals nicely to users that may use the site several times a week, but not frequently enough to justify the monthly subscription fee.
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