Salesforce.com today introduced the summer upgrade to its on-demand CRM software, called Salesforce Summer '08, featuring enhancements on both the client and server-sides of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.
Traditionally, Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) upgrades its software around three times per year. With the upgrade, all 43,000 Salesforce customers have immediate access to the new platform, since its main bragging point is that no software needs to be rolled out to client computers.
Force.com, the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that allows developers to build their own applications to run along side the ones provided by Salesforce, has been expanded out to allow for developing any kind of application the users want with Apex, Salesforce's Java-like programming language.
Also, Visualforce is now live in every edition of Salesforce, enabling developers to create their own custom interfaces based on Web 2.0 UI items that will work on any device. So it's possible to make your Force.com applications run on a PC, laptop, BlackBerry or iPhone.
"Visualforce really completed the whole stack for how developers can use Force.com to create applications," Al Falcion, senior director of product marketing for Salesforce, told InternetNews.com.
"Any client with a browser is covered. There's definitely a need for different UIs, even if they use the same app." As such, Visualforce lets developers create an application that presents data one way on a desktop, and in a different way on a notebook or smartphone.
50 new applications
Salesforce Summer '08 is launching with 50 new applications, among them Salesforce Ideas and Salesforce Content. Salesforce Content is a Web 2.0 content management application that enables the use of various Web 2.0 mechanics, including subscriptions, tagging and the rating of documents. As such, Salesforce apps now offer Web 2.0 features like tag clouds.
Salesforce Ideas is a community-like feature that lets customer, partner or employee communities post, discuss, and vote on ideas. It was the basis for Dell's IdeaStorm and now will allow Force.com customers to build similar Web sites where they can solicit community feedback.
Despite concerns over Web 2.0 security, Falcione said that the Web 2.0 technology here is safe since Salesforce.com is the source. It's not like you're pulling data from a MySpace page.
"The big news here is we're really opening up CRM apps to a broader community of customers and partners and doing it with a lot of Web 2.0 capability," he said. "CRM is no longer about sharing information internally it's about extending data with partners and customers. That's what content and ideas apps do."
Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, said the release is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but will still carry weight.
"In many ways, what they are doing is capitalizing on some of the best practices that have emerged from the Web 2.0 world from some more innovative companies who may not have the size or scale to have gotten the same attention. So this helps legitimize some of these tools and techniques," he said.
"Because Salesforce has been in the vanguard of the SaaS movement, whenever they rollout these iterative enhancements, they are worth paying attention to," Kaplan added. "As they lead, others follow."