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Salesforce Looks to Developers For Next Killer App

SAN FRANCISCO -– Salesforce.com continued its transformation from a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider to a provider of a platform to build your own services with the launch of Apex at its Winter 07 event here today.

Apex, a Java-like language, was made available today for IT developers to begin working on their own SaaS apps that work with their internal applications or Salesforce.com services. The final product is expected before the end of the year.

Having built out the application end of its business with AppExchange, Salesforce.com is building out its offerings by providing customers the chance to create their own SaaS applications, something one analyst in attendance praised.

"If you think of an ecosystem, all of the elements of an ecosystem interact with each other. With most software ecosystems, they function more like a zoo, with everything walled off or separate in cages," said Mervyn Adrian, senior vice president for research at Forrester Research.

"The Salesforce ecosystem is more like a nature preserve than a zoo, with plenty of land, water and food in a safe confine. They provide customers with a structure, the tools, the services. You just sign up and can get involved," he added.

And with that, the company is exhorting its developers to get into the SaaS development market. "Go out and create the next Salesforce.com," said George Hu, chief marketing officer, during the keynote.

CEO and chairman Marc Benioff would expound on that later, saying "We want the killer app for Salesforce.com to come from a third party," he said during a luncheon with press and analysts. "We think it's better to aggregate the whole industry and go at it as a team than go it alone."

Salesforce.com is not going alone, not by a long shot. It announced several partnerships today, the most notable being Cognos. The business intelligence developer announced it will offer Cognos 8 Business Intelligence on AppExchange.

Additionally, Cognos announced the Cognos Data Adapter for Salesforce, which will provide bidirectional access to historical and transactional data for both Salesforce and Cognos 8 BI customers.

Another new partner is Bluewolf, a consultancy that specializes in media firms. It announced its MediaTrak service will be listed on AppExchange, for managing relationships with media firms. All told, more than 500 firms have applications listed on AppExchange.

In addition to partnerships, Salesforce.com is racking up big customer wins. In the third quarter, Salesforce.com landed its first 15,000-seat customer, Cisco Systems . Just a few months later, Benioff announced today the company scored another 15,000-seat customer in Dell Computer .

"It took us seven years to get our first 15,000-user customer. It took us seven weeks to get our second one," said Benioff.



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