It was "kind of ridiculous," said Marc Benioff this afternoon at Software 2007, that had to build a substantial and costly infrastructure "just to host a contact manager" when the company was first getting under way. When you’re the first, though, he said, you really don’t have a choice — but once that infrastructure was all built, he said, "We looked at this and said, ‘Maybe there’s another business model here.’"

That’s how Marc introduced the entrepreneurial opportunity of the Salesforce Platform. "We want to let small companies go up against the big software vendors: there’s ‘way too many good ideas on our IdeaExchange for us to do them all." He introduced the team from Appirio, who went from an IdeaExchange suggestion to a product in just a few months. "We provide developers free access to our platform," he said, and quoted a number of independent developers who had found the platform to be a far more productive work environment than what they’d been using before.

Marc emphasized the extension of the platform opportunity beyond the well-known domains of sales force automation and customer relationship management. EditGrid, a general purpose spreadsheet from a Hong Kong-based team, was one of his examples. Adam Gross then joined Marc to demo a conference management application with an Adobe Flex front end. The dynamic user interface of Flex was integrated, under the hood, with the same data sources that support the HTML user interface.

Publishing that conference management tool to AppExchange concluded the demo, sending an unmistakable message to the entrepreneurs in the audience. "The vision," said Marc, "combines tools, technology, and a community to make you successful."

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