Salesforce will enter the custom software market next week with the launch of Force (site will go live Monday morning), a new platform that will allow developers to create database driven applications and deploy them as services. So if Salesforce doesn’t offer what you are looking for, and no one has built it for you on Salesforce’s AppExchange, you can simply build it yourself using the Apex framework.
At its core Force competes as a development platform with .NET, Java, etc. But there are also a slew of startups that have focused on allowing people to easily create and deploy database driven applications – DabbleDB, Zoho Creator, LongJump, Coghead and WyaWorks, among others. All will take a hit from Force. In fact, this may be sort of game ending for them. Salesforce has its eyes on much bigger fish than those startups.
Any internal process or function that requires custom software may be a candidate for Force. Disney, which has been testing the platform, is using it to manage character (Mickey Mouse, etc.) appearances. EA has built a recruiting application. Bronx School is using Force to manage attendance, performance, etc. Salesforce says they can actually manage the entire school on Force.
Salesforce is also announcing VisualSource, a set of tools that allow developers to build applications for multiple devices (tablets, iphone, etc.) and add HTML, AJAX and Flex to Force applications (making for much nicer looking and more user friendly applications). See the screen shot below for an example user interface.
Pricing is a flat $25/month/user.
Salesforce has always said its about software as a service. Next week, they say they’re deploying the platform as a service with Force. I imagine they’ll find a receptive customer base.