Unveils Business Web

On Tuesday, formally launched AppExchange, the on-demand platform and directory it first announced last fall, and Winter '06, the 19th generation of its on-demand CRM solution.

The packed event, held in downtown San Francisco, provided a showcase for the company's Business Web concept. Defined as a network of on-demand applications, services, components and development efforts that enable customers to run their entire business on demand, Business Web is being promoted by Salesforce as the logical extension of the Internet.

"The consumer Web is where the action has been until now, driven by a series of brand-name platforms such as Google, Yahoo and iTunes," said Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff. "If it's so easy to get things like your music and news online, we wanted to figure out how we could do that for business as well."

AppExchange is the enabling platform for Business Web and features the necessary security, scalability, resilience, open APIs and development environment to make it run most efficiently and effectively. Often described as an eBay for business applications, AppExchange currently features about 160 applications that users can deploy, share, review and even take for prepurchase test runs. To help support the platform, Salesforce recently spent $50 million to build two new data centers in the United States.

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"ISVs are really embracing this model," says Bobby Napiltonia, Salesforce's senior vice president of worldwide alliances and channels. "And VARs who have either a vertical or horizontal expertise can take the applications for a demo with their customers or play with the applications in a development environment; you can't do that with software."

AppExchange applications run entirely on demand, and the available solutions are beginning to extend beyond's on-demand CRM lineup to include finance, electronic signatures, document management, project management, credit and collections, mobile-workforce management, data cleansing, professional-services management and human resources.

The company also used Tuesday's event to roll out Winter '06, the latest version of its on-demand offerings. Among the updates are an improved interface and territory-management capabilities, an integrated marketing campaign-building tool, and improved forecasting and analytics. The company also released Salesforce Sandbox, which provides "one-click" access to create a fully replicated, highly scalable on-demand customer replica environment for customization, integration, testing, development and training purposes for an extra $25 per month per existing Enterprise Edition user.