While many at the launch event, including Microsofts Lewin, doubted that enterprises would ever move mission-critical data, as opposed to customer contact information, from beyond the firewall to a hosted service, Benioff remains bullish.
"We can change the paradigm," Benioff said. "This is the future. Client/server is the present."
No less an authority than Adam Bosworth, who led development teams for Access and Internet Explorer while at Microsoft and is now chief architect and senior vice president of advanced development at BEA, endorsed the strategy.
Bosworth said Salesforce.com has achieved what companies like Microsoft, Oracle Corp., Sun and IBM failed to achieve on their own five years ago—an open Web services platform.
"Its easier to talk to Salesforce.com than it is to talk to a database," he said.
Sforce is analogous to Siebel Systems Inc.s Universal Application Network and SAP AGs NetWeaver application integration strategies, according to Benioff.
But he said sforce goes well beyond both because its less expensive, requires no software and is easy to use, even for non-developers.
Though he doesnt have an IT background, Salesforce.com customer Bill Dillon, territory manager at Wendover Technology Marketing Reports of Haverford, Pa., envisions his company building its own collections, accounting and lead management applications using sforce.
Dillon said that in time, sforce will become the platform of choice in organizations.
"People just have to become comfortable using the Internet this way. People thought e-mail would never catch on, but right now virtually everyones using it," he said.
Parker Harris, Salesforce.coms senior vice president of research and development, said customers will likely use sforce to integrate and extend the Salesforce.com hosted service initially, then begin to develop entirely new applications within six months to a year.
Sforce is available now. It includes the Salesforce.com Developer Edition plus support and sample code. While theres no cost to access the tools, deployment is $50 per end user per month plus $1 per megabyte per month. The first three users and 10MBs are free for the first year. There is no cost for deployment for Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition customers.