Salesforce.com unveils new services, pushes its cloud

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Nov 3, 2008 6:29pm EST

SAN FRANCISCO Nov 3 (Reuters) - Business software provider Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N) said Monday it set alliances with Facebook and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and unveiled a new Web site management service as it pushed to bring more customers into its so-called "cloud" computing universe.

Chairman and Chief Executive Marc Benioff told an audience at the company's annual Dreamforce developers conference in San Francisco that Salesforce is aiming to provide one-stop shopping for businesses.

"Now you can run your whole Web in our cloud," Benioff said. Cloud computing refers to services and programs that are delivered over a network, rather than fixed on local computer hardware.

Salesforce charges customers a monthly subscription for access to its software, and lets third-party developers sell applications to businesses through its force.com site.

On Monday, the company unveiled a new tool that lets customers build and manage internal intranets and external Web sites. A portion of the service will be included in the subscription fee, but Salesforce will charge an extra $1,000 a month for up to 1 million page views beyond what is included in the subscription.

Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research, called the new offering a "stake in the ground," and said it was a logical evolution of the company's strategy.

"There's already a lot of companies using Salesforce for applications, so this is a natural extension of what they've done," she said.

Under the agreement with Facebook, the popular social networking Web site, users will be able to develop their applications on Salesforce and and use them on Facebook.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, said the site now has 120 million users, and has added 30 million in just the past three months. Sanberg sees a lot of room on Facebook for enterprise applications.

In addition, Salesforce said its customers will be able to use Amazon's web services to build new applications.

Bruce Richardson of AMR Research said the alliance with Facebook, while not likely to have a financial impact, shows the company is looking to the future. He expects the agreement with Amazon to ultimately be more useful to Salesforce customers.

"They want to be able to say we understand there are social networks out there. We're not sure what the direct link is to business, but we want to become a part of that groundswell," Richardson said.

Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) announcement last week of its new operating system Azure may represent a trend of technology companies betting on cloud computing as the future of software. As if to drive the message home, Salesforce's conference was decorated head-to-toe in cloud imagery.

With such a crowded field of competitors, companies are pushing hard to convince customers that their cloud has the most to offer.

"I clearly see where Salesforce is going in wanting to be able to take more and more of the creative aspects of your business and put in on their platform," Richardson said.

Shares of Salesforce closed down 37 cents at $30.59 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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