June 3, 2003 6:46 AM PDT

Salesforce unwraps customization plans

Salesforce.com on Tuesday launched a wide-ranging program that allows developers to customize its business applications and to build new online systems.

As previously reported, the initiative, called sforce, provides programmers with an online application development utility that allows them to custom-design corporate business applications for PCs, handheld devices such as personal digital assistants and smart phones. Developers use sforce along with their existing development tools, from Microsoft, Borland and Sun Microsystems, to integrate data stored in Salesforce?s applications with new and existing business applications.

Initially, Salesforce will make available services and application programming interfaces that work with popular software development tools to build new online programs tied to Salesforce?s applications, along with support initiatives. Those services will be targeted at business developers working within large companies.

Ultimately, the San Francisco-based company hopes to convince other business software vendors to use its hosting services to deliver their applications to customers.

Salesforce competes with Siebel Systems, SAP, PeopleSoft and Microsoft in the market for business applications designed to help salespeople track customer accounts and sales prospects. A key difference between Salesforce and many of its rivals is that the company relies on the Internet to give customers access to its software, which it maintains and runs on its own computers for a monthly fee.

Tuesday's announcement unveils a new dimension to Salesforce's sforce Web services plans. The company said it has lined up major alliances with tool vendors that will pave the way for developers to build applications using software from multiple companies that is hosted by Salesforce.

With these alliances, developers can use Sun?s Sun ONE Studio tools; Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net, Borland's JBuilder and BEA Systems? WebLogic Workshop. Salesforce said sforce will provide access to services such as authentication, data management, document management and text search, through the tools.

In addition, Salesforce said it has signed up 25 software makers to work with sforce to build Web services-based applications. Those software makers include AvantGo, Blue Martini, Business Objects and Cape Clear.

To integrate application and make development more rapid, the company is relying on Web services development techniques and on standards including Extensible Markup Language (XML), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

Salesforce said sforce costs $50 per end-user per month, with an additional cost of $1 per megabyte of data stored online per month. The company said that the first three sign-ups and 10MB of storage space would be free for clients the first year.

 

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