Saleforce.com's upcoming Force.com tools will let developers build apps without the Salesforce brand.
Until now, there had been no getting around it. Salesforce.com partners and ISVs using the company's Apex platform to develop on-demand applications had a central complaint: Every application, regardless of who the end user was intended to be, carried the Salesforce brand. The logo kept ISVs at a distance from their customers.
Salesforce is out to change that with its Force.com announcement Sept. 14. At its annual Dreamforce user conference Sept. 16-19, the San Francisco company will unveil a developer platform, Force.com, which provides developers with the back-end infrastructure and logic to design applications-absent the
branding. The Force.com platforms major technology, named Visualforce, is essentially on-demand user interface capability that lets customers and ISVs build a user interface with the look and feel of their choice. Visualforce is the culmination of Salesforce.com's vision for on-demand environments moving forward, said Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing at Salesforce.
"It's the way we bring the whole [on-demand vision] together, and the catalyst is Visualforce. It's the most important piece we've announced to date. It lets you build any application experience for any reason," Gross said. "[Currently] our apps all look very common. We haven't had a user experience to date."
Using Visualforce, a developer can create a user interface that looks like a proprietary application within a browser logic built into the tool. Salesforce.com's on-demand development components-database, workflow, infrastructure, apex code-all reside in the background. For Visualforce, Salesforce has essentially added its logic to basic Web building blocks, including
HTML, Flex and AJAX
The capability should ease the branding woes of current developers and open up Salesforce's platform to a new set of users, Gross said.
"The reason why we think this is going to be important is, by being able to change the user experience we can really serve a whole new class of applications and a whole new class of users," he said.
Visualforce's page-based model is complemented with a component library for implementing common user face elements, as well as a controller model for creating new interactions between those elements, Gross said. Some new tools include: Pages, which enables the design definition of an application's user interface; Components, a tool that lets users create new applications that automatically match the look and feel of Salesforce applications or extend the UI to look like a separate application; and Logic Controllers, which enable customers to build in user interface behavior.
Visualforce will be available in developer preview for Dreamforce attendees. For those who don't attend the conference, the developer preview will be available in the company's fourth quarter.