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NetSuite tackles Salesforce.com with own development platform

NetSuite Business Operating System brings together tools for customizing online packaged applications for specific industries.

NetSuite on Thursday is expected to fill out its online development platform, part of its strategy to deliver industry-specific applications through partners.

The newly named NetSuite Business Operating System (NS-BOS) adds to the company's existing hosted development platform, notably with an integrated code debugger called SuiteScript D-Bug, which will start to be available next month.

With the NS-BOS, NetSuite is targeting independent software vendors (ISVs) with expertise in specific industries that are looking to create a software-as-a-service offering. In particular, the company is trying to enlist client/server application providers that need to create a hosted offering.

As part of its so-called vertical industry push, the company hired Michael Ni as vice president of industry solutions who will spearhead business development with ISVs.

CEO Zach Nelson said that NetSuite's development strategy differs from that of its primary competitor, Salesforce.com, in that NS-BOS' primary purpose is customizing the company's accounting, sales, and ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications.

"We're not talking about an Internet operating system where developers build random applications. It's really about building business applications that are embedded in NetSuite," Nelson said.

The tool itself will be free, but NetSuite will share revenue from applications with ISVs. The percentage will depend on the application provider, but will likely be about 50 percent of the price for NetSuite's applications, Nelson said.

In addition to Salesforce.com's Force.com platform, NS-BOS faces competition from a growing number of hosted development platforms, such as offerings from Bungee Labs and Coghead. Packaged application providers SAP and Oracle also have hosted offerings that can be customized.

Nelson said that there might be some resistance among the individual developers to use NS-BOS, which is closely tied to NetSuite applications, rather than their own tools.

But from a business perspective, the development platform offers the benefit of a hosted infrastructure and the same tools that NetSuite programmers use, he said.