Microsoft Developers, Meet

Susan Hall

Updated · Feb 02, 2005 launched the sforce Developer Program for Microsoft Office, featuring a set of free tools and resources to help its on-demand CRM software play nice with the suite.

Wednesday's announcement came as part of Microsoft's Office Systems Developers Conference, taking place on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., February 2 through 4.

The sforce Developer Program for the Microsoft Office System includes the sforce Toolkit for Office plug-in that lets developers access the sforce application programming interface directly from within Office applications. A beta version of the free toolkit is available for download today.

“Sforce is about two things: customization and integration,” said Adam Gross, director of product marketing for sforce. While customization lets users change the fields, layouts and reports within the browser interface, he said sforce itself provides the integration with everything outside the browser.

“What makes that happen is the Web services API. And this makes it easier for existing Microsoft developers to take advantage of the sforce API.” provides a suite of Web-based CRM applications for a single monthly subscription fee. is a similar service focused on the needs of companies with field force personnel. Both are built on sforce, a client/service integration platform designed for easy customization by independent software vendors and customers.

The applications can connect with a variety of systems and platforms, including enterprise and desktop applications, mobile devices and IP phone systems. Integration is via the sforce Web service API.

While Microsoft is building into its Visual Studio development tool a similar ability to connect to outside applications via Web services, Gross said that offering a plug-in will be still another way for Microsoft developers to easily extend Microsoft Office.

“We want to make sure that if you're fluent in those Microsoft technologies, adding sforce into those integrations is only a tiny additional step.”

Microsoft was a partner in the June 2003 launch of sforce, and released its own add-in for Office around a year ago. That product, Office Edition, is integrated with the on-demand CRM software. It lets users view and manipulate reports within excel, create mail merges between CRM data and Word documents and manage and store Outlook e-mails with CRM contacts.

Gross says the Office Edition was created in response to customer demand, but his company can't include every possible integration or function. “Instead, we're tapping the developer community to bring their solutions to our customer base,” he said.

In support of those developers, will extend its On-Demand Marketplace to include a special category for Office-based software, and the company has opened message boards dedicated to Office in its sforce developer community. claims approximately 214,000 subscribers and 13,300 customers worldwide. The company said that since the launch of sforce, calls to its Web service API have grown to 20 percent of total traffic, comprising millions of requests a day coming from integrated desktop and enterprise applications, rather than from a Web browser alone.

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