Salesforce.coms AppExchange Offers Application Sharing

The online community allows users to shop for, test drive and install on-demand applications.

At its Dreamforce 05 user conference in San Francisco this week, founder and CEO Marc Benioff detailed the next wave in on-demand computing for the company.

During his keynote address Monday, Benioff unveiled the details of AppExchange, Saleforce.coms new platform for sharing applications and components, an offering Benioff likened to the eBay of the applications world.

"We asked, What if customers could share and buy applications, kind of like a marketplace? What would that be like to a developer to build an application and put it in a marketplace, then have a customer buy it?" said Benioff. "What if there was an eBay of applications—an iPod of enterprise software? What would that be?"

The answer: AppExchange, an online community that allows users to shop for, test drive, install (and de-install) on-demand applications using little more than a browser and Internet connection.

Developers are able to deploy applications on Salesforce.coms Multiforce platform and market them in the AppExchange environment.

The caveat for users is just that—they utilize Saleforce.coms Multiforce integration platform, which has been re-branded Appforce Integration and Appforce OS in a confusing marketing pitch meant to simplify the naming of the companys major products. introduced Multiforce, or Appforce Integration, with its Salesforce Summer 05 release.

The platform enables users to develop, integrate and deploy not only Salesforce applications but partner applications as well, provided they are built using the Multiforce development tools.

What AppExchange brings to the table is a community platform that enables users and developers to share applications and information—a community Benioff is hoping is as ubiquitous as eBay.

Currently AppExchange lists 70 different applications—Salesforce announced 35 such applications Monday, and its partners announced another 35—divided into categories.

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Accompanying each application offering are peer reviews and ratings.

Community members also have the ability to share other information, such as reports or research.

The list of available applications is expected to grow, perhaps exponentially.

"Youre going to be able to load more and more applications in Multiforce," said Benioff.

"These applications are going to come from us, and from partners. Theres going to be thousands."

The pricing structure is such that various developers will charge users to download their applications, but Salesforce will not receive additional payment.

At the same time, each independent ISV or developer will support its own applications, while Salesforce will support its applications—a potential recipe for disaster, according to at least one industry analyst.

"This is not a shiny new penny. Its something that is common in the software industry and nothing more. It opens up more questions than it answers," said Michael Maoz, Gartner Group Inc. vice president and CRM research fellow.

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"Data security, reliability of applications—they havent been vetted. Are they Trojan horses? There are security and data risks that could come; this does lay bare some possibilities of compromise."

Benioff, for his part, doesnt see AppExchange as dangerous new territory waiting to be exploited. Its the magic of the Internet that makes it all work.

"You will be able to see, install and uninstall applications just like you do in [Microsoft] Windows, because its all Internet-based," said Benioff.

"There will be a directory of Japanese applications, of Chinese applications. A directory of applications for manufacturers. Were calling all developers."

Users, potential users and developers can view AppExchange online, at Salesforce.coms Web site.

The live version will be available with the companys winter release, which will bring about a host of CRM functionality upgrades.

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