Platform in the Clouds chief sees PAAS as a broad development foundation. Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff sat down for a conversation with eWeek editors just after he introduced the company's new platform-as-a-service, or PAAS, offering at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

The company widely seen as the standard-bearer for the SAAS (software as a service) movement has continually evolved, to use a word Benioff seems to favor. Moving from its early days as a CRM (customer relationship management) vendor, has created AppExchange as an on-demand applications marketplace and developed a proprietary language called Apex that allows customers to customize their instances and integrate them with other applications, including on-premises software.

Allowing developers to compile code in its own cloud can be seen as the next logical step for as it tries to widen adoption of applications delivered on demand in general and its own ecosystem specifically.

Providing ISVs and other partners with the tools and infrastructure to build applications for App??íExchange expands's growing hegemony over the SAAS universe. It is also an olive branch to enterprise IT departments threatened or locked out by the on-demand model by giving them the ability to create custom integrations that might otherwise be outsourced.

eWEEK Executive News Editor Michael Hickins and Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson interviewed Benioff in San Francisco.

Can you talk about the relative importance to of the various businesses and revenue streams you've developed, from your CRM product through to App??íExchange and now PAAS?

We've really evolved as a company. ... And that is really our vision-to become a multiapplication, multicategory company. We don't want to be just applications. We want to be in the application business, which we are, and we're very successful at that. And we want to be in the platform business, and we are, and that's really an emerging business for us today. But I really believe in the platform-as-a-service concept.

Where do you see your company five years from now? As an application vendor or a platform vendor?

Yes. [Laughter] What we really see five years from now is that continues to be the leader in software as a service, just as we have been for the last nine years. And we really want to define platform as a service and be in the same leadership position-certainly in the enterprise space.

You know, there will be a lot of platforms as a service. That's what I love about platform as a service-that it's another huge category, just as you have software as a service, you have a lot of applications. ... I think you're going to see consumer platforms emerge, and I think you're going to have enterprise platforms emerge, as well.