Salesforce Rolls Out New Tools for Force.com

The on-demand business applications vendor debuted a new pricing model and some new developer tools.

Salesforce.com has released a new pay-per-login payment option for users to access applications developed on its Force.com platform.

Rather than paying the $50 per user monthly fee for the all-you-can-eat buffet of business applications, customers can now opt to pay $5 per log-in with a maximum of five log-ins each month. The company said this Force.com cloud pricing option is for occasional-use and widely deployed applications—for example employee vacation request programs—and is available for platform use only and not for customer relationship management (CRM) (define)  applications.

Salesforce.com customers have developed more than 50,000 custom applications on the Force.com developer platform for everything from accounts receivable and expense reporting applications to emergency room staffing and time management programs. Making this new utility pricing model available will give customers the ability to pick and choose the when and how these custom applications are deployed in their organizations based on employee usage patterns.

"Cloud computing, or platform-as-a-service, has enormous potential for the enterprise," CEO Marc Benioff said in a statement. "Cloud computing offers almost unlimited computing power and collaboration at a massive scale."

Force.com, which was first unveiled during the company's Dreamforce conference in September, is built on the company's proprietary Visualforce technology. It gives customers, developers and independent software vendors (ISV) the ability to create custom applications and user interfaces that can be accessed from desktop PCs, iPhones or retail kiosks using the Salesforce.com service.

By tapping into the logic and workflow intelligence of its Apex code, Visualforce lets users design interfaces that can be tailored to the look and feel of their brands rather than displaying their applications in the standard Salesforce.com format and design. Visualforce uses HTML, AJAX and Flex programming languages to give any customer with an Internet connection the ability to create and share their custom applications throughout their organizations.

Salesforce.com is clearly banking on this developer network to deliver more applications that make sense for the limited-use buyer.

"Most of the business apps I use—like relationship tracking, customer relations management, account management, etc.—I wouldn't want to have to worry about how often I access it," Richard Ptak, an analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates, wrote in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "I admit I have a hard time identifying a business application that I would only use on a very limited basis—maybe something like quarterly reports. It would seem to me that if an app was used that little you might find another way to accomplish the task."

The company also announced some new development tools to make life easier for customers to create customized user interfaces for all these new Web applications they're developing on the Force.com platform. A new Force.com metadata API (define)  gives programmers the ability to save their Force.com code into source code management systems. Users can tap into a Force Sandbox for testing applications during development.

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