Hosted information system supplier Salesforce.com has backed away from early plans to open an Asia-Pacific incubator for software start-ups after changes to the scheme, which was launched in the US early last year. It will instead focus on enticing independent software developers to use Force.com, a technology platform it hopes will encourage businesses to develop applications that complement its customer relationship management (CRM) product.
"We've changed the business model a bit, to be frank," Salesforce.com president and chief strategy officer Steve Cakebread said.
"The incubator process was a good start but it wasn't as successful in the States [as hoped] because we had some business model problems. I think we've fixed those and what we're going to do is make the hurdles to businesses joining us on the developer platform almost nil."
In the US, Salesforce's original incubator program housed technology start-ups that were developing products that ran with its software-as-a-service offering in a complex where they received support from Salesforce.
The company had planned to replicate the set-up in Europe and Asia Pacific, but Mr Cakebread said it was now concentrating on getting as many developers as possible to work with its Force.com development platform.
Force.com was first announced at Saleforce.com's annual conference in San Francisco a year ago but the company is only just starting to push it heavily in Australia and the region.
It is also trying to entice large systems integrators that generally support business software products from SAP and Oracle to throw their weight behind Salesforce's CRM system.
Because Salesforce hosts its own software, technology integrators have had few opportunities to sell services around the increasingly popular product, but Mr Cakebread said that was starting to change with Force.com.
"The mid-size and newer systems integrators are really taking advantage of this," he said. "The larger guys, a lot of their revenue still comes from the service-support arena of old products. But the Force.com platform makes it much more compelling for them to participate and the economics are getting better for them."
He said the internet-based, cloud computing sector in which Salesforce.com competed was starting to gain traction and the Asia-Pacific area was showing the strongest growth of any region.
He also claimed that its recent tie-up with Google was yielding results for both companies globally.
Under the partnership, Salesforce.com and Google are trying to sign up each others' software customers to their respective CRM and office productivity applications. It is a move some analysts have said is an attempt to give Google's technology more credibility.
Mr Cakebread said one of Salesforce's largest Australian customers was close to signing up to use Google Apps but he declined to name them. In New Zealand, Salesforce customers include Digital Mobile and Global Careerlink.
"There are a number of large companies . . . that are looking at Google Apps and Salesforce," he said.
"[Google] has to start slowly . . . it's certainly controversial if you're a more traditional CIO [chief information officer]. But it's also capturing the hearts and minds of our customers and creating opportunities . . . with CIOs who are starting to understand cloud computing."
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