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Salesforce.com Buys Into Accounting Software

Salesforce.com, a maker of Web-based software for managing sales and customer service, is getting into the business of selling accounting programs through a venture with a Dutch company.

Salesforce has set up a company, FinancialForce.com, with Unit 4 Agresso NV that sells accounting software using Salesforce.com's technology for building and distributing software over the Web.

The move brings Salesforce into an area where it had been conspicuously absent. The San Francisco-based company will compete head-to-head with Intuit, Microsoft and Sage Group, which sell accounting programs to small and mid-sized businesses.

Unit 4 Agresso owns a majority stake in the venture, FinancialForce Chief Executive Jeremy Roche said in an interview. He declined to give specifics or say how much the two companies had invested in the project.

While the companies did not say how they would split up any profits from FinancialForce.com, Salesforce stands to benefit from traffic it generates because the product runs using its own technology at its own data centers.

Salesforce distributes all its software over the Web. Customers access its programs through Internet browsers and pay monthly service fees to access the programs.

It also makes money by letting other companies develop software with its technology and host it at its data centers. FinancialForce.com was originally developed with that service, known as Force.com.

The new venture offers a basic accounting package comparable to products sold by Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Sage.