Salesforce.com Enhances Its Software-As-Service Approach - InformationWeek
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11/3/2004
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Salesforce.com Enhances Its Software-As-Service Approach

CEO Benioff & Co. are more of a "disruptive force" in the software industry than ever before.

Salesforce.com cast itself as the impetus behind a new era in application development at its Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco Tuesday, parading a string of industry luminaries during an extended keynote session that communicated a clear message: As software evolves into a commodity, making the services underlying it more ubiquitous represents the industry's best opportunity.

The provider of on-demand salesforce-automation software introduced its winter 2005 release of its core application, along with a new version of its Sforce integration platform and a new customization toolkit called Customforce.com. The company is positioning the suite of offerings as a recipe for building on-demand applications and linking them to other systems and applications. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff contrasted his company's approach with that of competitors that have chosen to roll out numerous editions for vertical industries, something he says customers don't really want. "They want an edition exactly for them," Benioff said.

On hand to show support for Benioff's vision were Jonathan Schwartz, president of Sun Microsystems; former Oracle president Ray Lane, now a general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Adam Bosworth, VP of engineering at Google; and Brad Boston, CIO of Cisco Systems.

But having established players supporting it publicly doesn't make Salesforce.com any less of a disruptive force in the software industry, says Beagle Research Group analyst Denis Pombriant. "It's taking the disruption to a new level," Pombriant says. "They were a disruptive application. Now they're a disruptive service, and a disruptive platform."

Google's Bosworth told the keynote audience that unlike most of its competitors, Salesforce has figured out that software won't be what provides it with differentiation as the industry evolves. "The theoretical advantage you could have gotten from on-premise software turned out to be a theoretical liability," Bosworth told hundreds of Salesforce customers. "The real value in software today is the value of information."

Sun's Schwartz agreed, but pointed out that a key obstacle remains before the full benefit of ubiquitous access to applications and services can be realized: security. Unlike cell phones and bank ATMs, which prevent fraudulent use by clearly identifying users, PCs still provide enough anonymity to make access to critical information less secure than CIOs would like. Schwartz said: "As soon as we get that out of the way, as far as I'm concerned, it's time to pop the champagne again."

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