As promised, salesforce.com is unbundling its Apex development platform from its CRM suite of applications. With the new Salesforce Platform Edition, developers can build and deploy applications independent of salesforce.com’s CRM applications. The company expects to have applications in new categories, such as ERP, ecommerce, financial services, human resources and legal, using its Apex development language and supported on its on demand, multitenant infrastructure.
Speaking earlier this year about the Apex platform, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said, "We want a killer app to emerge from a third-party," Benioff said. "We don't want to do it all ourselves…we can't. It's better to aggregate the whole industry and go at development as a team effort, especially for an distributed environment like AppExchange....We can sell far more seats and at much higher margin over time. As a platform company, we can enter all markets. CRM is only one information management market; there is such a wide area of applications–ERP, custom, custom apps, agile apps. And, the cost and heavy lifting of building apps and the risk associated with developing each additional app for each market and geography is diminished. We share in the success but not in the risk, and the developer doesn’t have to take big risk investing in capital expenditures or taking venture capital money."
Apex, a Java-like programming language, won't be foreign to developers, and taking advantage of infrastructure-as-a-service, such as what salesforce.com offers, is the wave of the future. But, it remains to be seen if major ERP applications developed natively on Apex that can compete with SAP and Oracle will be appearing soon. Workday, for example, is developing on demand ERP applications on its own platform that company CEO Dave Duffield boasted will reach parity with SAP and Oracle in 18 months.
Currently salesforce.com's AppExchange marketplace has about 550 applications, mostly tied into salesforce.com's CRM solutions.
Salesforce Platform editions have been in beta test with a few customers, including The Schumacher Group, which has been developing internal applications for contracting, recruiting, credentialing, and payroll departments.
Salesforce Platform Enterprise Edition is priced at $50 per user per month, $75 off the bundled price, and includes the capability to run up to 10 AppExchange applications, 25 custom tabs and 200 custom objects.
Salesforce Platform Unlimited Edition is priced at $100 per user per month, $150 off the bundled pricing, and allows unlimited AppExchange applications and custom tabs and 2,000 custom objects. It comes with Salesforce Sandbox, Premier Support, additional storage and Apex Mobile objects.