extends its application platform with looks to make its developer platform a "peer with .Net and Java" with new user interface tools. next week intends to detail an extension to its Web-based developer platform that it claims will put it on par with traditional offline development tools.

At the Dreamforce developer conference in San Francisco next week, company executives will introduce, the new name for a set of tools and hosted services for building hosted Web applications.

It will also introduce an addition to its hosted development platform called Visualforce, a service that allows a developer to create a customized application user interface. Conference attendees will get access to a developer preview of Visualforce.

Visualforce complements existing developer-oriented services, including , a language meant to speed up creation of applications that run on its platform.

The introduction of the user interface service is significant because it makes's hosted development platform a more viable alternative to Java or .Net, said Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing at the company.

Whereas applications are typically sold to salespeople, its development platform is aimed squarely at IT managers and chief information officers, said Gross.

"This user interface layer allows the applications that we serve to be opened up to new classes of users and devices," he said. "A different kind of person (than the application customer) is buying this for a different reason--the same person who is making .Net of Java buying decisions."

For those who don't attend the Dreamforce conference next week, the technology preview of Visualforce will be available in the fourth quarter this year.

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