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Salesforce.com names Apex ship date amid growth concerns

Class libraries in, execs out

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Salesforce.com will next month release its Apex programming language to developers hungry to mash-up web-based business applications with its "platform in the sky" and to reassure investors anxious about growth.

Silicon Valley's software-as-services (SaaS) poster child said it will launch the highly anticipated, Java-like meta Apex language along with the twenty third update to its customer relationship (CRM) management suite, Summer 07.

Unveiled in January, Apex consists of a set of Java class libraries and can be accessed with SOAP and XML through a web services API or AJAX toolkit. Apex can make outgoing calls to third-parties' web applications that also expose web services APIs, like Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Getting in early on Apex is Adobe, who in April partnered with Salesforce.com to announce a Flex Toolkit for Apex.

Chief executive Mark Benioff said Apex would create a platform-as-a-service, "revolutionizing how customers build and deploy apps. Customers can write code that runs on our servers - it's programming without software."

Apex comes, though, amid doubts on Wall St over Salesforce.com's ability to grow and return a profit having already notched up 32,000 customers in seven years with big names including ABN AMRO and Sprint Nextel, and over the ability of new activities like Apex and content management to generate cash.

Investors are also unsettled by the prospect of looming competition from Microsoft and SAP, with Dynamics Live CRM and A1S, and Salesforce.com's decision to invest heavily in building an enterprise sales team to move into these companies' core, enterprise customer base.

Concerns have not been eased by a rapid succession of losses in management, which are being seen as an indication something's wrong inside the company.

Rene Bonvaine, senior vice president and general manager of AppExchange and developer marketing, quit Salesforce.com after just four months to become Serena Software's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. AppExchange is the marketplace Salesforce.com believes will help it establish an ecosystem of partners, building application add-ins for its platform using Apex.

Within the last few weeks, the president of finance and chief accounting officer Bill Dews has resigned after just nine months, having joined from Hyperion, along with the company's director of treasury. Salesforce.com said Dews left for personal reasons, but would not comment on other departures.

Salesforce.com is optimistic Apex will attract partners and, therefore paying customers, by taking the underlying CRM platform into new, non-CRM areas.

Summer 07 will feature the ability to deploy multiple sandboxes so businesses can test and develop multiple applications in a secure and isolated environment. Also coming is On-Demand Intelligent Workflow, which will let developers build rules for their applications, tailoring software services to individual customer and vertical sector business needs - potentially helping stimulate the partner market.®

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