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Salesforce.com Goes Live With Online Apps Store

Salesforce.com on Tuesday went live with AppExchange, its online applications store.

Salesforce.com on Tuesday went live with AppExchange, its online applications store.

San Francisco-based Salesforce.com is positioning AppExchange as an eBay-type site for business applications, even software that has nothing to do with the San Francisco-based company’s hosted CRM offering.

Salesforce.com has been talking up AppExchange since the fall, but the company announced on Tuesday some name-brand ISV players on the platform, ranging from Adobe Systems and Business Objects to Skype. With the effort, Salesforce.com--which already contends with software giant Microsoft in CRM--is also taking on that company's prodigious tools arsenal. AppExchange is a full platform for building new applications for Salesforce's infrastructure or integrating existing .Net or Java apps.

Asked if that was a daunting prospect, Phil Robinson, chief marketing officer for Salesforce, said: "No. Not at all."

Microsoft is too far behind the curve and has too much vested interest in its server and client portfolios to take a risk on a full-fledged software-as-a-service (SaaS) bet, he said.

"Six weeks ago, Microsoft talked about Microsoft Live for the first time. This is just not in their DNA,” Robinson said. “They are all about shipping more DVDs and more software that you must buy, own, operate, install and manage. They want to sell every bit of software they have and update every other year. Meanwhile, we've had 19 updates in our seven years of existence."

BusinessObjects is using AppExchange to dip its toe into the SaaS model, Robinson said. Indeed, last month Business Objects executives told CRN they were planning a SaaS move but declined to provide more detail. The company on Tuesday demonstrate a hosted version of Crystal Reports that’s available by subscription.

With Skype integration, partners and customers can integrate VoIP into their current AppExchange applications and endow them with voice, conference calling, white boarding and other collaborative perks, Robinson said. The Adobe integration enables partners to use secure PDF delivery for important documents from AppExchange.

AppExchange tools are free to developers and ISVs to use and provides them with a free hosted infrastructure on which to offer them. There are now 160 ISV partners, Robinson said.

Remend, a San Mateo, Calif. ISV is aboard, said CEO Don Morrison. Remend deals with mortgage-related software applications. In that business, there's an army of title companies, brokers, and appraisers and each broker might be dealing with a half dozen to a dozen lenders.

"One may be pushing work via email, another by electronic forms, another might send you to a Web site. we noticed there was no aggregation application for these brokers and appraisers. It's in our best interest to win as many of these small businesses to our system as possible along with the lenders," he noted.

He said his company has not had to invest a red cent in moving its wares to Appexchange.

However, Salesforce.com did acknowledge there is a $10,000 fee to certify applications running on its infrastructure.

Salesforce.com's Robinson insisted that customers and partners are not put off by Salesforce.com's recent and very public network outage.. "Customers are very tolerant about the Dec. 20 issues, due to the service levels they've come to expect,” he said. “Everyone now knows about what was a 2.5-hour outage over a 4.5-hour time period. What happened was a rare database error, and it has been fixed. We're running as well as we've ever run."

Some customers and partners told CRN that the unplanned downtime was not as much an issue as periodic "planned outages" when the service goes offline in various geographies for fixes and updates. Though they are timed to be at off-peak times, those periods can be problematic, said one ISV customer who has tried to work during such outages.

Robinson added that AppExchange also gives ISVs and VARs with vertical expertise a new, searchable showcase for their wares.

This story was updated Tuesday evening with additional partner comment.

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