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Salesforce.com Launches App Marketplace

On-demand software vendor Salesforce.com launched an application marketplace aimed at developing an ecosystem of third-party developers.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, making the announcement at the company's quarterly users' conference on Monday, said the goal was to create an array of applications similar to eBay's .

"The next level is not just building applications, but saving and sharing them," Benioff said. "This will help to break through the application backlog and create a greater critical mass."

The marketplace, called AppExchange, went live on Monday, seeded with 70 applications created by Salesforce.com and third-party developers.

For example, OneSource Information Services offers Account Intelligence built on Salesforce.com's platform, which has been re-branded as Appforce. It integrates OneSource's repository of business information with the platform.

AppExchange applications will be hosted by OpSource, a company that provides infrastructure for delivering software as a service.

A directory lists applications by business category, and user ratings and comments will be included. Potential users can test the applications within the AppExchange before taking them live within their own Salesforce.com application dashboards. But customers will have to wait until the product's next quarterly release to use them. The applications pull data and functionality from the underlying Salesforce.com software.

"They'll all run in the Salesforce.com platform you already have," Benioff promised the audience of customers and partners.

Customers and users of the on-demand software will be able to publish all or components of the customized software they've built on top of Salesforce.com, as will independent software developers. Applications can be shared free or offered for a fee; Salesforce.com will not take a cut of the fees.

Salesforce.com was launched as an alternative to big-box software, such as Siebel CRM. Increasingly, the company has taken aim at general software vendors, as it aligns itself with Web-native companies like eBay, Amazon.com and Google , which offer access to information and software via the browser.

"We think this is a tremendous opportunity for independent developers to create a marketplace," Benioff said.

It's a strategy that's central to Microsoft ; today, the world's largest software vendor kicks off its Professional Developers Conference, where ISVs and corporate developers will learn details about the next versions of Microsoft software and how to develop applications on that platform.

The CRM landscape shifted with today's announcement of Oracle's $5.8 billion acquisition of Siebel Systems .

Siebel, with 4,000 applications customers and 3.4 million CRM customers, has been moving in on Salesforce.com's turf with its CRM OnDemand offering. Benioff said his product has 30,800 subscribers with an increasing number of enterprise users.

According to Delphi Group analyst Hadley Reynolds, Siebel's current software sales level is less than half of what it was in 2000, due to customer dissatisfaction with their return on investment for the product and competition from Salesforce.com and SAP.

In a research note, Hadley wrote, "Oracle's venture to roll up aging enterprise software assets begs the question of whether it has bought the foundational pieces for the next killer 'suite,' or instead assembled the remnants of an outmoded business model that has not delivered adequate value to enterprise customers."