The MS Office Killer

Susan Hall

Updated · Apr 13, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO — When CEO Marc Benioff coined the company tagline “the end of software,” he wasn’t kidding. He’s planning to eat Microsoft’s lunch.

Step by step, is building a Web services platform that aims to replace a huge swath of enterprise applications. That could be bad news for the world’s largest software vendor.

At the company’s Integrationforce Day event here on Tuesday, Benioff didn’t talk about applications. He talked about creating a Web-based, on-demand operating system called Multiforce that will power customer-generated applications to handle many facets of business without the need to license software or do custom integration.

“We don’t do applications like Word or Excel,” Benioff told “But there are elements of Microsoft Office, like SQL Server, that we want to replace.”

Customer relationship management was only the first step in the master plan, Benioff told the audience of partners, analysts and press. The company is going after all kinds of business processes, including recruiting, project management, product development, scheduling, budgeting and human resources.

In fact, the range of applications and ease of collaboration shown at the event looked a lot like the functionality Microsoft pitches for Office and the Windows Server System, such as the ability to make a change in one application and have that change immediately reflected across all applications. Microsoft’s model is to sell an integrated set of software applications via annual license fee, with additional fees for upgrades. Microsoft’s software is designed to work within its proprietary environment, although the company is embracing Web services.

Alternatively, offers its software platform and tools for a straight monthly subscription fee. Upgrades are delivered every quarter at no extra cost — a system that plays well with some customers.

“Microsoft wants you to buy more software,” Benioff said. “We want to see the end of software.”

Benioff told conference attendees that, having delivered the two core applications, CRM and Supportforce, the company will focus on building a platform that lets customers create their own custom business applications, all of which rely on as a central data repository. “ is the data hub for applications,” Benioff said.

At the conference, Benioff announced Sforce 6.0, the next version of its integration software, due in June. Sforce 6.0 includes a Partner Portal Toolkit, single sign-on functionality and a bulk data loader. The portal software lets businesses provide partners with controlled access to corporate data and applications. The data loader will let businesses migrate data from legacy applications via a simple wizard-based user interface.

Sforce 6.0 is designed to replace client-server application integration with Web services standards, letting companies integrate sales, marketing and customer data with corporate IT systems.

Customforce Summer ’05, to be delivered in June via automatic update, will include Multiforce, the on-demand operating system that provides a unified, connected data model for enterprise data. According to preliminary company materials, Multiforce turns into a platform on which customers can access a variety of on-demand applications running on’s servers, while tapping into the single data repository.

With Sforce, launched in June 2003 , businesses also can integrate the hosted application with desktop applications such as Microsoft Word and Outlook. Web services APIs let them connect to back-office systems such as enterprise resource planning software or call centers.

“Sforce is the glue between enterprise applications and,” Benioff said. “You can do in the on-demand world everything you can do in the client/server PC world.”

Benioff said that Sforce Web service calls accounted for more than 20 percent of the 1 billion transactions the company tallied in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Benioff also announced that it would release the Sforce toolkits, including the new Sforce Partner Portal and Sforce Telephony API toolkits, as open source code. The company already has a busy open source project on SourceForge, featuring toolkits for Perl , PHP , and Python .

As the conference name implies, Benioff wants customers and partners to act as a the development and integration force, extending the market reach of without the need for, well, a big sales force.

“We could never build applications for customers as quickly and easily as they can for themselves,” Benioff said.

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