RealTime IT News

Salesforce Makes 'MySpace' For Business

As part of the spring 2007 release of its flagship Salesforce Automation (SFA) customer relationship management application, Salesforce.com  is rolling out what it calls "an enterprise-quality MySpace" application.

AppSpace, which allows businesses to create customer-facing portals on demand, will be available in limited release beginning in April.

The software, the latest in Salesforce.com's rapid software-as-a-service roll-out strategy, allows companies to engage their customers by sharing documents with them or soliciting feedback through forums.

AppSpace customers will also be able to add and share other on-demand enterprise applications with their customers.

Kendall Collins, senior vice president of marketing at Salesforce.com, said the application makes it easier for departments of larger enterprises to create branded portals without having to use complex and more expensive on-premise software.

"In the past, the portal has been expensive, closed, proprietary, fueled by software and difficult to alter," he told internetnews.com.

In some ways, the application is reminiscent of an enterprise wiki: it provides an online space for users to easily upload or edit content, and customers can establish user profiles to define privileges and role-based access.

Unlike a wiki, however, AppSpace can be used to upload applications that can then be shared by any user.

AppSpace is priced at $995 per month for up to 200 users; Collins said that volume pricing will be available for customers who expect to have more than 200 users.

However, Salesforce.com has not yet ironed out all the operational wrinkles of the products, such as how customers will be charged by other vendors for the applications which they drop into the AppSpace portal.

Some of those applications, like Google  Spreadsheets, are free.

Project management applications available on AppExchange, Salesforce.com's application marketplace, have an enterprise cost; others are paid for on a per user basis, which could boost costs significantly if every customer using the portal were counted as a user for those purposes.

Collins said the application is only being released to select customers, who will have to sign up online and then contact a live Salesforce representative, so that those kind of issues can be worked out before it goes into general release.

According to Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research, $995 is "just the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to the cost of running something like AppSpace.

"$995 is pretty cheap [for an enterprise application] but you have to invest in building and growing a community and ensuring that you get good participation on the part of the community, and that means someone dedicated full-time or at least part time to community-based activity," he told internetnews.com.