Salesforce swings into its Summer '07 release

New hosted CRM package offers customizable platform services, highlighting company's attempt to compete with SAP, Oracle, Microsoft.

Salesforce.com on Monday touted its newest release, billed as Summer '07, by highlighting the company's move toward customizable platform services.

To help make that transition, Salesforce is including its Apex code as a key feature in Summer '07. Apex, unveiled in October, is a Java-like programming language that allows Salesforce customers to customize their hosted applications.

Salesforce is aiming to use Apex's customization capability to compete with Microsoft, SAP and Oracle for large corporate customers, who typically require flexibility in tailoring software to meet their needs.

"Salesforce is moving beyond software as a service to a platform as a service," said George Hu, Salesforce chief marketing officer, adding that Salesforce is becoming more of an enterprise resource planning software company with the help of independent software vendors that develop applications to run on Salesforce.com.

Summer '07 will include on-demand multi-tenant programming language with the Apex Web Services API. It will use Apex code for management of work flow and will feature Apex's Salesforce Sandbox, which developers can use to concurrently create and test applications without disrupting each other's applications.

Summer '07's work flow features are designed to allow customers to incorporate formulas in work flow rules and approval processes that will create new rules that more appropriately address complex business processes tied to lead assignments, automated responses and e-mail alerts.

Summer '07 also will feature a revised AppSpace, Saleforce's hosted Web portal whose features allow clients to share documents and create applications such as mashups. Renamed Salesforce Customer Portal, the portal features a customizable user interface that allows companies to share data and applications with their customers, who, in turn, will be able to interact with the companies' other departments, such as billing, project management and procurement.

Salesforce expects its customer portal will be available in August, with monthly fees of $5 per customer user per portal. The premium service will cost $25 per customer user per portal and offer all applications from the Saleforce online-applications marketplace, AppExchange.

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