Salesforce.com Launches On-Demand Toolkits

by Erin Joyce

CRM provider declares that the end is near for software as we know it.

NEW YORK -- Online customer relationship management (CRM) software provider salesforce.com today launched a new suite of tools to help customers roll out highly customized in-house applications, part of its bid to replace specialized programming with drag-and-drop toolkits that create applications on the fly.

The suite, part of its Spring 04 release, includes salesforce.com Studio and sforce 3.0, the company's latest on-demand platform upgrade that helps customers and subscribers to its software-as-a-service applications create Custom Tabs, as well as new applications with associated objects. The company said the new suite enables point-and-click creation of Custom Tabs -- as well as new applications with associated objects, pages and tabs -- to extend CRM to fit any terminology, industry and business environment.

"We think this is our most important and exciting release we've ever had," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com. "You don't have to hire C++ or Java programmers for this." During a briefing event in New York, Benioff said the company's Spring 04 update brings it closer to delivering its dream: ending the era of software delivered on CD in order to deploy it as a service, utility-style, over the Internet.

"Salesforce.com has ushered in a new era of CRM customization while remaining as easy to use as ever," Benioff added, while sticking by his assertion that software delivered over the Internet, in an on-demand environment, is going to disintermediate the entire software industry as it has historically operated.

No more [charges] for more software you need, he added. "No more charges for hardware, CPUs, or load balancing or SSL accelerators, for that matter."

Company officials said with the new salesforce.com APIs included in the platform, end users can deploy drag-and-drop functionality that lets customers build in-house, industry-specific functions without bringing in specialty programmers. The platform lets users define object relationships between different custom objects and/or between standard and custom objects, officials said.

For example, an expense custom object can have a relationship to the opportunity standard object in salesforce.com. This will automatically create a related list for expenses on the opportunity page. The object relationships in salesforce.com are similar to the "Foreign Key" concept in database terminology, officials added.

In addition, administrators can configure page sections, fields, Web integration links and related lists on the Custom Tap pages. The platform also supports the reporting on all custom objects through the reporting engine, and lets admins add custom object data to salesforce.com dashboards.

The idea is to help the company's 9,500 customers and 140,000 subscribers extend their own customer relationship applications.

Other new features that salesforce.com will officially roll out on Tuesday include its sforce 3.0 release, the latest upgrade to the company's on-demand platform. Using the Studio and sforce 3.0 tools, customers can create new application modules or tackle more advanced projects by using Studio in combination with sforce Web services API and their development platform of choice, such as the .NET or J2EE environments, officials said.

The latest version builds on the ability in the prior release to include advanced custom objects, which allows customers to extend their salesforce.com data model with new data types and models. With sforce 3.0, customer objects have been enhanced to include management of relationships between objects, creation of custom layouts, new security capabilities and automatic reporting and indexing.

Database-mirroring API's are now available in the sforce Web service platform, which help facilitate integration with local data warehouse systems and allow for simple deployment of advanced analytic capabilities, officials said.

Salesforce.com officials made the announcement during two press and analyst events Monday, one in New York and the other in San Francisco. It also plans to launch the product in London on Tuesday.

The announcement came on the heels of a report in the San Francisco Chronicle that the company's much anticipated IPO could be delayed after Securities and Exchange Commission officials ordered salesforce.com to change the way it accounts for sales commissions. The company's software-by-subscription method of selling software has apparently run into some snags as to how the company recognizes revenue.

Benioff told internetnews.com he could not comment on the report, in keeping with SEC rules ahead of public stock offerings.

According to salesforce.com's S1 registration, filed in February, the company's net loss in 2003 was $10.1 million on revenues of $51 million. The revenues, however, were more than double the total revenues of $22.4 million during the prior year, when it declared a net loss of $30.2 million.

  This article was originally published on Tuesday Apr 13th 2004
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