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Salesforce.com welcomes CRM lapse

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Salesforce.com's campaign to go beyond CRM and become a platform player took a fresh turn Wednesday with services announced to win greater developer support and a new campaign highlighting its integration with traditional back office software.

The hosted CRM provider has launched AppExchange OEM Edition, giving developers the familiar Salesforce.com interface, security, integration and data sharing model but minus the CRM suite on which Salesforce.com made its name.

AppExchange OEM Edition builds on AppExchange, launched in January, where developers post applications that integrate with applications and data held in Salesforce.com servers. Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff told partners and press at a launch event in San Francisco: "Developers have been coming to us saying: 'We want to see your platform without your CRM.'"

Benioff used the event to promote partnerships with AppExchange members that help integrate Salesforce.com with Oracle/Siebel and Microsoft. Informatica demonstrated Informatica OnDemand to migrate customers' data from Siebel to Salesforce.com while Scribe Software talked about using its software to synchronize data and orders between Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce.com.

One thing missing from AppExahange when it launched in January was integration between Salesforce.com and these back office staples, which have a large footprint in the enterprise accounts Salesforce.com is eager to sign up.

While Salesforce.com has made a strong start in a relatively short time, AppExchange still has some way to go. It's still missing integrations with Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP, plus the broader Dynamics portfolio.

Wednesday's activities are the latest step to take Salesforce.com beyond CRM to avoid being overtaken by bigger incumbents. Salesforce.com has 444,000 subscribers at 22,700 customers but is looking for ways to add value to its core service by recruiting developer partners in the face of competition from Oracle/Siebel and SAP, who are pushing into hosting.

Peviewing AppExchange OEM Edition. Benioff positioned Salesforce.com as an alternative to Microsoft's Office for the end-user and a platform start-ups can use to deliver Office-like applications via a secure and reliable hosted infrastructure

AppExchange already hosts Writely for word processing and collaboration, iRows for spreadsheets, DreamFactory for project management and Adobe to create PDFs. In short: a componentized and hosted version of Office.

"That's exciting to me as the CEO of a company because I don't want to write a word program or a spreadsheet program. The 10 terabytes of data we manage can get pushed up into all these services, into Writely, into iRows and over 250 applications in AppExchange. That's a very different vision of computing that a lot of companies have been executing on so far," Benioff said.

In reaching out to developers, Benioff told potential partners that Salesforce.com takes care of the hosting infrastructure they'd otherwise have to provide. "We will run the systems and mange the data. We keep the systems running and [the developer] can keep writing these killer apps," Benioff said. "We are not just building a CRM platform. We are building a platform that lets people build their own applications."

Four companies have so-far signed up to AppExchange OEM Edition, priced $25 per user and which comes with five Salesforce.com tabs and 50 custom objects. They are: DreamFactory Software, MyLoanBiz, Rally Software Development and Remend.®

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