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Salesforce.com Kicks Off Online AppExchange Store

As expected, Salesforce.com went live with its online applications store last week.

San Francisco-based Salesforce.com is positioning AppExchange as an eBay-type mall for business applications, even those that have nothing to do with the company&'s own hosted CRM offering.

Salesforce.com has talked up AppExchange for months, but last Tuesday the company announced name-brand ISV participants including Adobe Systems, Business Objects and Skype. With the effort, Salesforce.com—which already contends with Microsoft in CRM—is also taking on that company&'s tools arsenal. AppExchange is a platform for building new applications for Salesforce.com&'s infrastructure or for integrating existing .Net or Java apps.

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>> ‘Microsoft has let us all down. They have not innovated at all in the last decade. They are still selling us more software. The reason that Salesforce.com, iTunes, Google, BlackBerry, Amazon and eBay exist is because Microsoft has failed.&'
-- SALESFORCE.COM CEO MARC BENIOFF

Asked if that was a daunting prospect, Phil Robinson, chief marketing officer at Salesforce.com, said, “No. Not at all.” Microsoft is too far behind the curve and has too much vested interest in its server and client portfolios to take a risk on a full-fledged software-as-a-service (SaaS) bet, he said.

“Six weeks ago, Microsoft talked about Microsoft Live for the first time. This is just not in their DNA,” Robinson said. “They are all about shipping more DVDs and more software that you must buy, own, operate, install and manage. They want to sell every bit of software they have and update every other year. Meanwhile, we&'ve had 19 updates in our seven years of existence.”

Via e-mail, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff told CRN: “Microsoft has let us all down. They have not innovated at all in the last decade. They are still selling us more software. The reason that Salesforce.com, iTunes, Google, BlackBerry, Amazon and eBay exist is because Microsoft has failed.”

Robinson added that AppExchange gives ISVs and VARs a new, searchable showcase for their wares.

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Salesforce.com Puts It In Motion
AppExchange made its debut last week
>> Positioned as eBay-type site for business apps, even those not related to Salesforce.com&'s hosted CRM.
>> AppExchange gives ISVs and vertical-focused VARs a new, searchable showcase.
>> Tools, hosting are free for developers and ISVs; a $10,000 fee is required to certify the apps.
>> New ISV participants include Adobe, Business Objects, Skype.

San Jose, Calif.-based Business Objects is using AppExchange to dip its toe into the SaaS model, Robinson said. Indeed, last month Business Objects executives told CRN they were planning a SaaS move but declined to provide more detail. The company last Tuesday demonstrated a hosted version of Crystal Reports that&'s available by subscription.

With Skype integration, partners and customers can integrate VoIP into their current AppExchange applications and endow them with voice, conference calling, whiteboarding and other collaborative perks, Robinson said. The Adobe integration enables partners to use secure PDF delivery for important documents from AppExchange.

AppExchange tools and hosting are free for developers and ISVs. However, there is a $10,000 charge to certify the applications for AppExchange. There are now 160 ISV partners, Robinson said.

Remend, a San Mateo, Calif., ISV is also aboard, said CEO Don Morrison. Remend deals with mortgage-related software applications, a business that includes an army of title companies, brokers and appraisers. “One may be pushing work via e-mail, another by electronic forms, another might send you to a Web site. We noticed there was no aggregation application for these brokers and appraisers. It&'s in our best interest to win as many of these small businesses to our system as possible along with the lenders,” he noted.

Salesforce.com&'s Robinson insisted that people are not put off by Salesforce.com&'s recent outage.

“Customers are tolerant about the Dec. 20 issues, due to the service levels they&'ve come to expect,” he said. “Everyone now knows about what was a 2.5-hour outage over a 4.5-hour time period. What happened was a rare database error, and it has been fixed. We&'re running as well as we&'ve ever run.”

Some partners said that the unplanned downtime was not as much an issue as periodic “planned outages” when the service goes offline for fixes and updates. Though they are timed to be at off-peak times, those periods can be problematic, said one ISV customer.

Rivals said that Salesforce.com is setting up conflict with ISVs. “The fact that [that company] is itself an SaaS provider with an ever-widening product line [could dissuade ISVs],” said Brent Arslaner, vice president of marketing at Jamcracker, a Cupertino, Calif.-based provider of infrastructure services for ISVs moving to the SaaS model. “Ebay and Amazon do not provide products that compete with products from members of their community, but Salesforce undoubtedly will.”

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