Salesforce.com bolstered its line of hosted CRM services Monday with the release of its S3 platform.
According to Tien Tzuo, vice president of product management at San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, the improvements include significant renovation and expansion within the data centers the company uses to host its customers' accounts. Salesforce.com has already activated the upgraded S3 system for all of its current users, he said. Salesforce.com S3 was designed using Sforce, the company's new client/service application builder, created with partners BEA Systems Inc., Borland Software Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.
Tzuo said S3 represents four years of development and a $100 million investment in research and infrastructure. The S3 release includes roughly 100 new features, according to the firm.
"We think this is the most significant step forward that we've made yet," Tzuo said.
Among the functional additions are a shared document library; HTML e-mail creation capabilities, tighter integration with Microsoft Outlook, a business process and workflow management tool set, an integrated team-selling module, executive opportunity alerts, and activity management controls.
Salesforce.com also unveiled several partnerships related to the S3 release, including a new relationship with New York-based business integration applications vendor Tibco Software Inc. Under the agreement, Tibco will provide Salesforce.com customers with applications that ease integration between S3 and enterprise systems made by rival CRM vendors, including Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG and Siebel System Inc. Dubbed the Salesforce.com Integration Server powered by Tibco, the service will be available under a pay-as-you-go model and will debut in the third quarter of this year, the firm reported.
In another announcement, Salesforce.com rolled out its new S3 Personal Edition, a free, single-user version of its services aimed at stealing users of low-end contact management software, such as ACT.
The hosted CRM provider also announced a deal with Dell Computer Corp., Austin, Texas, whereby the desktop computer and server hardware giant will feature Salesforce.com products as on-demand applications on its small-business Web site. The companies plan to act on that agreement later this year.
According to Wendy Close, research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., Salesforce.com has addressed some criticisms of the application service provider (ASP) model.
"Establishing a relationship with Tibco might not be the most effective way to connect Salesforce.com with other applications, but it works, and customers will appreciate the effort," she said.
Close also said that Salesforce.com's new offer to let customers download their CRM data to run analytical software or simply make backup records should impress users still on the fence about ASPs. While Close said Salesforce.com does not yet compete with enterprise players such as Siebel, as it claims to, she said the company has taken on a leadership role in the hosted CRM space.
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