SAN FRANCISCO—Salesforce.com is changing the name of its development platform to Force.com. The moniker is a reference to several themes that have flowed through the company—including at this event—since Salesforce.coms inception nearly nine years ago.
During his keynote address here Sept. 17 on the opening day of his companys Dreamforce user conference, Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff also unveiled the final layer to the companys nascent development platform—Visualforce, a service that lets developers build any user interface for any application.
At this show last year, Salesforce.com unveiled Apex, its on-demand, multitenant programming language, which operates within the environment of the companys development platform, also known as Apex. Prior to the introduction of Apex, developers were able to extend the companys CRM (customer relationship management) applications using many of the Apex tools, but in an environment known as Multiforce—a term that eventually fell away because of the Apex branding effort.
Now Salesforce has come full circle, back to Force.
It turns out that much of the companys consternation over the years with name changes—really a branding effort to focus customers on Salesforce.coms emerging platform capabilities—was the result of legal wrangling over the use of the Force.com domain name.
Apparently Salesforce was in negotiations for the Force.com domain with a California man who had used the dot-com designation for his company, which was named for his surname, according to media reports. Its not clear how much Salesforce paid for the right to Force.com, but the ownership of Force.com has enabled Salesforce, finally, to settle on a brand with continuity.
"We needed a name change. The message wasnt clear enough," Benioff said during a question-and-answer session with press and analysts following his keynote address. "The key thing was getting the brand out there, a new brand. [We had] sales, service, marketing [and then] heres the platform and the UI. On the platform side, we needed a revision of naming. I did it under duress of the employees. Today I think we really got that."
Douglas Menefee, chief information officer at The Schumacher Group, a Lafayette, La., company that develops software for emergency room doctors, believes that despite yet another name change to keep track of, Salesforce.com needed to rebrand its platform.
"Its this branding thing. You cant take force any lower than that. Force.com—thats a pretty good campaign to get people out of the habit of sales and all that. I think Apex is going to be out there, but … from your integrated software developers," Menefee said.
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"[With Force.com] what they did, is they caught up to speed with Microsoft and their MSDN network, where developers can come on for free and build up their applications and they have a huge Shareware library and marketplace for getting customers to buy software that they built on the platform. But software developers will use the Apex code."
With Force.com, Salesforce is trying to become the on-demand infrastructure of choice for companies developing SAAS (software as a service)-based applications. Despite the fact that Salesforce is the only company to date to try an on-demand, multitenant development platform, its up against some stiff competition for developer mind share—including the likes of Microsoft .Net and Java, as well as development tools from applications vendors like Oracle and SAP.
The rebranding will take some serious education on Salesforce.coms part to inform customers, partners and even employees what the new name means—and what capabilities Salesforce has beyond its initial sales force automation application.
"The reality is that even though we have the [platform] technology, were still out there saying, Hey, look, the world is changing and this is how youve got to change [with on-demand software]—on and on, day in and day out. This is where my mind is. Also, for our employees, this is a major event for them. We have to make sure they are up to speed," said Benioff.
He said his keynote at this years conference was the hardest he and his colleagues have ever put together, because he had to explain the Force.com concept and underpinning technology.
"When we rolled this out for the first time, customers did not get this," said Benioff. "User interface as a platform—I am the first who ever used this term. The same with platform as a service.…The reality is, even though I get it, I do not take it for granted that anyone else gets it. Its a tough row. Its tough out there."
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