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Boundary Buster

Developers extend Salesforce.com's reach via its on-demand application marketplace
Salesforce.com Inc.'s upcoming on-demand application marketplace, AppExchange, has some developers prepping applications that stretch Salesforce way beyond its traditional boundaries.

AppExchange Unveiled Here's what to expect from the new service:

What A marketplace of on-demand applications built to run on the Salesforce.com platform

When The site (www.appexchange.com or www.salesforce.com/appex change) goes live next month

Who More than three dozen developers have applications ready to launch; Salesforce built nearly half of the more than 70 apps

How Much Accessing the site and trying out applications is free; Salesforce-built apps are free to subscribers, others will require fees that their developers set.

Software consulting firm Bluewolf Group put test-drive demos of five apps on the AppExchange site, which is still in preview mode. Among Bluewolf's apps is a school-tracking tool that should open the Salesforce environment to a new base of users: school administrators, teachers, and, potentially, even students.

The school-tracking software required Bluewolf founder Eric Berridge and his staff to create custom objects to represent data that doesn't have a current placeholder in the Salesforce interface. Objects representing customers were easily converted into student records, but new objects had to be created to track principals, teachers, and other school employees. "We were delving into a whole new business process," Berridge says.

A.I. Tech Software Inc. is putting the finishing touches on a health-care application that fuses its knowledge-management expertise with sophisticated natural-language search technology from Inxight Software Inc. to create software that learns as it's used. So if patients logging on to self-service portals linked to doctors' Salesforce environments report similar side-effects from taking identical combinations of medications, the software would alert doctors, letting them know to hold off prescribing those medication combinations.

A.I. Tech's software will probably have to deviate from the typical Salesforce approach because the sensitivity of the health-care data involved is likely to compel hospitals and insurance companies to host it themselves rather than let it reside on Salesforce servers.

Apart from their interest in the AppExchange marketplace, Bluewolf and A.I. Tech share one other thing: Neither is certain how their AppExchange business models will unfold. A.I. Tech expects that because of data-security concerns, customers will want tailored deployments. BlueWolf's Berridge says his company's applications are sure to generate consulting work. But if the apps also could generate real revenue, he says, "That would be nirvana."