.com Partners Hoping for Big Profits"> "The first [risk] is mitigated by a pretty extensive roadmap that they tell us about," said Rubin. "Whether they buy a project management [vendor] is a bigger risk; to mitigate this is to make sure we are diversified." Options for diversification are opening up.Google and Oracle are rumored to be working on an on demand platform similar to Apex. SAP will officially launch its A1S suite of software Sept. 19 that could have a platform component given SAPs tremendous investment in its NetWeaver integration platform.On Sept. 12 BEA Systems announced new development, code named Project Genesis, which will enable companies to build SAAS-based applications. And Microsoft announced in July at its annual partner conference that it is in development with a platform that will be, in all likelihood, designed to compete specifically with Salesforce.coms Apex platform. "We are in the process today of building out a services platform in the cloud," that includes new models for management, storage and networking, said Microsoft CEO Ballmer, during his keynote address at he conference. "The programming model remains .Net and Windows, which is great, but we designed these things from the get-go to take advantage of modern technologies that allow for virtualization, scale-out, management and the like. Were going to have a lot more to talk to you about in this arena in the next 12 months." At the same time, Microsoft announced its World Wide Partner Conference the planned launch, in 2008, of a new on-demand marketplace in which Microsoft partners can showcase their company, applications and templates to customers. Customers can, in turn, download functionality and rate partner efforts. Very much like AppExchange, Microsofts marketplace will include partner "content" that will be directly integrated with Microsofts CRM Live, the companys on-demand, multi-tenant CRM software due later this year. Rubin said that while his company has had discussions with the Microsoft Dynamics [business applications] teams, he is more focused on those companies with their roots in on demand. "Microsoft is something well do, but down the road." To read more about about Microsofts new online application marketplace. click here. Other partners, like Blue Wolf Chief Architect Lou Fox, are banking on Salesforce.com and the on demand movement. "BlueWolf made their beat on on demand," said Fox. "I am not saying if Microsoft comes out with a great on demand solution we wouldnt look at them and partner, but for now Salesforce is the leader. And there are many other companies that dont have the baggage of on premise that are doing great." The looming competition means Salesforce has to ensure its partner community stays happy and profitable. On its IdeaExchange Web page, created to help Salesforce.com sort out customer and partner requests for development, there are a number of partner requests listed from an April 3 AppExchange Partner Brainstorming Session. The number one suggestion: More information on OEM licensing. "There was a lot of confusion about whether this exists and how it is priced," reads the list. "AppExchange partners need a better understanding of OEM licenses and how they work." The reason for the request is that partners want the ability to sell their wares not only to Salesforce.com customers, but as stand alone products as well. "Development now is specific to use within a company. There is a strong need for project management within a company, but also a strong need between companies," said DreamFactorys Rubin. "There are tricks we can do to get around it." Rubin said that while Salesforce.coms delivery against partner requests is pretty strong there is always something on his wish list. "I am looking for things that help me lower my sale costs," he said. The AppStore helps with issues that kill small companies such as deferred revenue models and expensive acquisition costs, he said. "The demand engine helps [as do] quality leads. But from the platform perspective the area that we could see a step improvement in is opportunityif [Salesforce] does more for the extra business." The idea is to open the platform more to Salesforce.coms partners partners, suppliers and customers to develop applications, said Rubin. When asked how he would define success with the AppExchange platform Rallys Martens was succinct. "I need to open the channel," he said. "I need to be effective at selling what is a vertical solution to Salesforce CRM customers. Salesforce needs to be good at helping me do that. Were in the [Salesforce] incubator in San Mateo. We get an amazing level of supportgo to market, engage with Salesforce executives, be successful at Dreamforce. Thats back to making me a successful ISV." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about customer relationship management solutions.