SAN FRANCISCO—Lew Tucker, vice president of AppExchange at Salesforce.com Inc., spent a few good and formative years at Sun Microsystems Inc. developing Java as a technology. Always with the vision of on-demand development capabilities, but never quite the opportunity to get there with Sun, Tucker took a position at Salesforce.com to run the companys corporate Web site. That job quickly evolved into the development of AppExchange, a platform that enables users to develop, buy, sell and rate applications—and build a community around the whole process. Tucker sat down with Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson at Salesforce.coms AppExchange Day and Winter 06 release event here Tuesday to talk about the vision for AppExchange and how his experience in the past may just help Salesforce.com achieve its goals in the future.
At what point did you come into the AppExchange development?
I joined Salesforce a year ago running their corporate Web site—Salesforce.com and all of that. Thats what I was given the assignment for in June, to go and build a Web site to host these applications. [I]t was really … when I started working on [the Web site] that I started thinking of it much more [as] what were now envisioning it as—this eBay of applications, something that has community involvement and user feedback and RSS feeds, and ratings and making it really fit that model to be the best of these sites to be on the Internet, and turn that around. That took the concept, which was originally about allowing customers to share their applications, to save them away safely. As we approached that more, … I found myself designing more of a service—which the AppExchange.com is—so that not just customers could share applications, but partners could. I think our vision for where that is going is that a whole range of services can start to go out through that channel, for our development partners and everything else.
How much of the work that you did at Sun plays into your work with AppExchange?
About 100 percent. I was part of the first JavaSoft team, so I from the early Java days of 95 was thinking about the evolution of software as a service—whats the suitable content and how software should be able to run anywhere. I put up java.sun.com and we helped the Java developer network get going. So my first task for Java was to go get 1,000 applications developed on Java the first year. The only way I knew how to do that was to go to the Internet. So we did that immediately, put everything we could for free, so that everyone had easy access to it, and started driving the entire development community. Also, working with the VCs and the whole infrastructure thats required for software development—youve got to get the key people lined up; youve got to get the umbrella thats officially in the market. Im a Ph.D. in computer science, but I knew thats what it was going to take. And very much we applied the Sun model when looking at this, so here we have a new platform. So in fact it was around the March timeframe when we were launching CustomForce, and I kept saying, "Our announcements got to be around the platform." It was a little early for that, but thats what Ive always viewed this thing as—as a platform play. And thats what it turned out to be."
Where did your efforts at Sun go?
That contributed a lot to the growth of Java as a technology. We were quickly at a ramp to getting millions of developers involved in Java technology, because what developers are always looking for is a way for them to market, or even pre-market, their applications. Developers like to build things, and they like other people to use them.