Salesforce.com's AppExchange ecosystem is an attractive prospect for ISV partners, with 25,000 customers and half a million users to target. What then will on-demand ISVs make of the new ecosystem opportunity announced today by WebEx, which offers access to 25,000 customers and two million registered users?
In San Francisco tonight, web conferencing market leader WebEx launched a new collaborative platform, WebEx Connect, which brings enterprise and on-demand applications into a collaboration-centric WebEx environment that combines instant messaging, shared documents, threaded discussions and of course web conferencing (there was a party too — see pic). [Update: Dan Farber reports the launch too]. Powered in part by SOA integration and process orchestration from composite applications specialist Cordys, the platform provides sophisticated business process mashup capabilities to knowledge workers. (Cordys is a $250 million startup led by Jan Baan, the former founder of one-time ERP giant Baan Systems).
WebEx founder and CEO Subrah Iyar is betting that knowledge workers will prefer to manage their work from the collaborative WebEx interface rather than from individual applications such as salesforce automation or enterprise resource planning. "People don't collaborate in applications," he said at tonight's launch. "In the midst of collaboration, they want to access applications." The Cordys-powered technology allows them to bring data from those applications into the collaboration space, whether from existing installed enterprise applications or newer products and services such as SugarCRM (one of the ISV partners announced at launch). It also allows business users to implement or amend workflow processes that utilize the composite functions and data brought together in the on-demand workspace.
When I wrote about WebEx back in December, it was part of a series of postings about what I was calling Web 3.0, which I define as an enterprise-ready evolution from what Web 2.0 offers today. Even then, Iyar was arguing that WebEx's "core online meetings application is far better placed to become a pivotal Web 3.0 application than its rival's salesforce automation (SFA) service." Now WebEx has come out with a platform built around that application that has a great deal of potential depth and reach.
Like AppExchange a year ago, the platform has been announced today several months ahead of when it is due to be available as a production service (the target timeframe is January), and today's launch is all about stimulating interest among partner ISVs. Success for any ecosystem is a matter of encouraging a virtuous cycle of developers attracted by users who in turn increase their loyalty to the platform because of the new capabilities those developers bring. It's up to WebEx to kick that virtuous cycle into existence. If it can, it will prove a formidable rival to AppExchange as one of the leading on-demand ecosystem platforms.