Salesforce plans platform push

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Salesforce plans platform push will kick off its Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this Sunday, 16 September and is likely to provide a catch-up on the progress of its recently launched Apex programming language.

Apex was made available earlier this year in a move that gave developers the ability to code for the on-demand platform in order to add functions or integrate with existing infrastructure. For some developers, Apex is already showing its worth form a security point of view.

“With [Salesforce’s application marketplace] AppExchange, once somebody downloaded your code, they owned your code because a good developer could come in and take chunks of it,” said John Appleby, chairman of Saaspoint, a systems integrator. “We think Apex has fixed that.”

Some watchers also suggested a broadening of AppExchange.

Denis Pombriant of analyst Beagle Research said, “This should be the time when Salkesforce unveils the AppExchange store which enables partners to sell their products completely through That service is supposed to charge a flat fee to the partner for all of the business aspects of the relationship from selling to collecting. There's been a lot of talk about how much the company will charge for that and the service has not been fully activated to my knowledge.”

Salesforce is continuing to grow at a rapid clip and give a leg up to partners developing software on its platform.

Saaspoint, an almost 50-person company, is growing at 250 to 300 per cent per year and is typical of companies that Salesforce wants to recruit to build an ecosystem that goes beyond core customer relationship management and sales force automation capabilities.

Salesforce has also recruited several major names to AppExchange, including Adobe, Business Objects and Cognos.

Salesforce will receive some major competition on 19 September, SAP plans to make its big move into targeting companies of up to 500 staff with a web-based suite of business applications that is codenamed A1S.

However, veterans of the small and mid-sized sector are unlikely to fade away quickly.

“What people underestimate is the importance of relationships with channel partners and customers,” said Brendan Flattery, UK managing director Sage’s mid-market division.

“It’s service rather than technologies that is key. For example, all our call centres are local to customers.”

Flattery said local domain knowledge is also critical. “If you don’t know what’s going on with local governments, tax and the macro economy it’d very hard to server customers. You have to know about vertical industries and serve them with the most appropriate tools and services.”

Infor chief executive Jim Schaper said, “It is a delivery vehicle release; the same solution packaged in a different way. It is not a game changer. SAP has three mid market offerings and I dont know where they all fit. There is not vertical-specific functionality, and nothing to drive down costs. The mid market is not looking for big applications anymore, you have to go down market to achieve growth in today's environment. The high end is taken care of. [But] to move downmarket is very difficult."
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