RealTime IT News

Salesforce Finally Ships Appexchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- After what CEO Marc Benioff called "a humbling experience," salesforce.com officially launched AppExchange -- four months after its previous launch.

AppExchange is a marketplace of on-demand applications built on the salesforce.com platform. While the exchange was seeded with 70 applications in September, it now has more than 150, Benioff told the audience at the company's quarterly release event.

Benioff also used the event to subtly reposition the company as the provider of "Business Web" applications.

"The consumer Web is where the action has been," Benioff said, "with sharing and collaboration mostly among consumers." The rise of Web-based consumer applications was driven by "platform companies" including Google , Yahoo , eBay and Amazon.com , he said, as well as by Apple's iTunes music marketplace.

Now, salesforce.com aims to be the eBay of business applications.

"We want to make building and installing business applications as easy as reading and writing blogs," Benioff said.

But it evidently wasn't as easy to build the AppExchange as the company hoped. He said the company had rebuilt its hardware platform, adding two data centers that mirror each other, then rewrote its software. As of today, all work has been completed.

But the on-demand CRM provider experienced a data center meltdown in the process. On December 20, some salesforce.com users experienced intermittent access from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 12:41 p.m., and then again from around 2:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. EST, the company said at the time.

Despite the delay, Benioff said, to date Salesforce.com subscribers have installed more than 1,500 applications and test driven more than 75,000.

AppExchange includes on-demand applications from Adobe, Cast Iron Systems, Harte-Hanks, iAnywhere, Scribe and Business Objects. There is full mobile access, integration with Microsoft Outlook and the ability to run offline.

Lassoing in a few buzzwords, Benioff said the latest release enables "mash-ups" and RSS feeds of information. The company also announced integration with Skype, the voice-over-Internet protocol provider, that will let subscribers use Skype within applications built on the salesforce.com platform.

While the platform's application programming interfaces are open, and the company hopes that a wide range of applications will compete for a place in its ecosystem, salesforce.com also announced a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services, an IT consulting, services and business outsourcing company based in India. Tata will develop and deploy business applications on AppExchange, starting with a series of call management applications to extend salesforce.com's Service and Support offering.

For now, salesforce.com subscribers can access AppExchange and subscribe to third-party products directly from ISVs. Phil Robinson, salesforce.com's CMO, refused to say whether the company's long-term plans included taking a revenue share from third-party developers.