Interview with salesforce.com pt 1: AppExchange and the Web Office

Update: Part two of the interview is now available, entitled How Salesforce has evolved (over 20 versions) to be a Web Office platform. This week I spoke to Kendall Collins, vice president of marketing at Salesforce.

Update: Part two of the interview is now available, entitled How Salesforce has evolved (over 20 versions) to be a Web Office platform.

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This week I spoke to Kendall Collins, vice president of marketing at Salesforce.com, about the latest "Summer '06" release of salesforce.com. But the most interesting topic of discussion, for me, was when we delved into the Web Office - and how salesforce.com fits into that space. This is the first part of that interview, in which we discuss how AppExchange - salesforce.com's service for sharing business applications - overlaps with the Web Office.

What Web Office apps are available on AppExchange?

I began by asking what kind of Web Office apps (word processing, spreadsheets, etc) salesforce.com "It's [about] moving from monolithic enterprise suites to heterogeneous web services" currently has running on AppExchange? Kendall said one area that's been popular is project management, which has historically been an underserved market. He said in the web 2.0 era we've seen "a wealth of applications in this space" - e.g. DreamFactory has delivered an interesting and easy-to-use UI with its product DreamTeam, which has been a hot app on the AppExchange. 

He said for word processing, a company they've done work with is Writely -"we've done a number of mashups with Writely". However Writely is not currently listed on AppExchange, because Kendall said that Google is re-writing it. 

For email, Zimbra is popular on AppExchange - it uses Ajax to deliver a rich client experience. Kendall said Zimbra is superior and more collaborative than using an Outlook client for email.

AppExchange as a platform for the business Web

I asked Kendall if this means AppExchange acts as a kind of portal or dashboard for users - i.e. a frontend for multiple Web Office apps? Kendall said yes and that there are two main strategies to AppExchange that are important. 

The first is delivering a platform for the business Web. He said they went to the consumer Web for a lot of inspiration - "the consumer Web has been where all of the action's been over the past few years." He mentioned Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, iTunes - which he noted have fundamentally changed our lives as consumers. He said businesses have "looked longingly to the consumer Web and said: why can't I have applications that are this easy to use?" 

However Kendall said a key difference for businesses is they haven't historically had a platform on which to run web services in a consolidated environment. So this is where AppExchange came in. Key aspects of AppExchange are making customers feel comfortable, providing good security, integrating apps and enabling users to do mashups. Also providing a platform that enables customers to "operate globally but act locally when it came to deployment."

The second main strategy for AppExchange is to provide an alternative to big companies that try to offer a lot of different products under one roof - "buy everything from me". He called that "the monolithic, self-serving approach". By contrast AppExchange, he said, lets people take advantage of innovation across the Internet (by different vendors) - "it's moving from monolithic enterprise suites to heterogeneous web services... and thousands of web services." 

Kendall said the AppExchange is a place to foster an exchange of ideas and web services, and a directory across a number of application areas - that go well beyond CRM.

Coming up: Part 2 of this interview with Kendall Collins, vice president of marketing at Salesforce.com.

See also: Salesforce.com releases Summer '06 - 20th generation of their CRM service; Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff berates Microsoft in internal email; JotSpot partners with salesforce.com

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