SAN FRANCISCO—Salesforce.com began its campaign to turn its on-demand customer relationship management service into a development platform for Web applications with the official introduction of AppExchange here Tuesday.
The company rolled out AppExchange along with the Winter 06 edition of its core CRM application at the type of event that has become Saleforce.coms hallmark; it invited several hundred people to a small venue where guests are chest-to-chest, packed six deep into corridors and hallways. This time it was at the St. Regis, San Franciscos newest and trendiest hotel.
With his usual evangelistic fervor, Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, talked about his companys plan for providing a common access point and development platform for many different kinds of Web applications.
"Our vision is to take killer applications on the Internet and transform that into a platform, just as our predecessors did with the PC," Benioff said during his keynote address.
"To do that we need a platform [where developers can] create and publish applications that are secure and scalable in global implementations with local [functionality] like currency. Also, we want mash-ups, like Craigslist integrated with Google. We want to have those mash-ups, but a lot of them, automating business. So weve been working on AppExchange."
To illustrate this concept, George Hu, Salesforce.coms vice president of strategy and marketing, demonstrated an application that combined regional sales reports built with Salesforce.com and Google maps. The report links were displayed as balloons over each geographic point.
Another key goal is to give software developers a platform for building on-demand applications to rival that of Java and .Net in terms of functionality, company officials said.
"Were sort of ecumenical. So if youre developing an outside service that now will become part of our business Web so that Salesforce customers can now take advantage of it, that development can be done in .Net, in PHP, in C, it really doesnt matter," said Lew Tucker, vice president of AppExchange.
"Our integration language is that of Web services, so weve standardized on the Internet protocol and then were leaving particular development environments that developers like to use up to the developer," said Tucker.
The AppExchange concept is not new. Salesforce.com announced last year its intention to build "an eBay for the business world" where users can develop and trade software from Salesforce.com and from third-party vendors. Tuesdays news was about the general availability of AppExchange, along with many new infrastructure upgrades to support a complete development platform.
"We had to rebuild our architecture. … MultiForce was the first version of the AppExchange operating system," said Benioff. "We also had to rebuild our software. We have installed two huge data centers that are now running the Salesforce Winter 06 release—thats a complete rebuild. After that, we wholesale replaced all our software and put that onto new hardware. Thats all completed, all running on Winter 06 architecture."
The two new data centers—one on the West Coast, the other on the East Coast—were a $50 million investment for Salesforce (one data center will be mirrored next month) and will provide the performance to support what Salesforce.com hopes will be a rapidly growing population of CRM users and AppExchange developers.
Salesforce.com also announced the Winter 06 release of its on-demand CRM software—its 19th generation. This latest release comes with a number of functionality upgrades including a new user interface, and 2.0 versions of Outlook and Office.
The upgraded Outlook offering brings integrated synchronization for better productivity and an upgraded user interface. Offline Edition 2.0, on the other hand, has been completely re-engineered to bring increased data volumes, field-level conflict resolution and leads, and custom-related lists, officials said. Also added to the suite are a new Territory Management module, an integrated Campaign Builder tool and streamlined analytics.
But make no mistake, Salesforce.com is moving beyond CRM. Its goal now: to become an on-demand business application development platform—one that developers think of first for building applications—that enables the exchange of all different types of services.
Next Page: Appealing to ISVs.