Salesforce.com Uncouples Apps from CRM
Salesforce.com took a giant step forward in the SaaS world with the release of Salesforce Platform Edition, which allows customers and developers to deploy the Salesforce.com platform independent of the company's CRM and SFA applications. The move, which has been predicted and discussed around the industry since the introduction of AppExchange and the Apex platform, puts the company in a position to function as both a platform and applications vendor.
AppExchange, Salesforce.com's online marketplace for users and third-party vendors to trade applications that integrate with the popular on-demand CRM system, has served since its inception as an easy way to expand the core functionality of Salesforce.com. However, it has not been particularly cost-effective for companies that wanted access to AppExchange but didn't wish to use Salesforce.com as their CRM system. Three versions of Salesforce Platform Edition are available at different price points to help ease this drawback.
Salesforce Platform OEM Edition, at $25 per user, per month, includes the platform and the ability to run an AppExchange application with up to 5 custom tabs and 50 custom objects. It is intended as an embeddable version for ISVs.
Salesforce Platform Enterprise Edition costs $50 per user, per month, and grants access to the platform and the ability to run 10 AppExchange applications, 25 custom tabs, and 200 custom objects.
Salesforce Platform Unlimited Edition provides the platform and an unlimited number applications and tabs with up to 2,000 custom objects; it also includes the Salesforce Sandbox testing environment, premier support, extra storage, and Salesforce Mobile.
"We're unbundling the platform from the application in answer to the online business community's desire to have access to the features and applications on AppExchange even if their CRM needs are already covered," says Ariel Kelman, a senior director of platform product marketing. "Salesforce.com is going from being an applications provider to being a big, magical database in the sky."
Analysts have expressed interest in the move by Salesforce.com, but that interest is tempered with realism. "It's not groundbreaking, or a surprise--it's not that hard to decouple Salesforce CRM from the AppExchange," says Rob Bois, a research director at AMR Research. "But it does create a lot of new opportunities for AppExchange partners and developers, and means that neither they nor Salesforce.com have to rely on CRM customers."
Bois notes that the company already has more Web transactions on its platform through API calls than through CRM usage, but says there's little chance that it will deemphasize its CRM product. "In order for Salesforce.com to truly change into something other than a CRM system provider, it would have to change the DNA of all its employees. The real question remains whether customers will be interested in buying applications in general through the platform."
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