We’re one week away from Cloudstock in San Francisco, where I look forward to meeting developers who are finding new paths to success with Database.com and Siteforce – as well as using the API power of Chatter, and the complementary powers of Force.com and Heroku. Just that opening sentence makes one thing clear: our conversations about “the platform” have become a lot more multi-dimensional in the five years since my role in “Platform Research” was created here at salesforce.com.

What’s also changed is the growing urgency of adopting and using true cloud platforms, giving developers the leverage of platform services and the elevated security and governance that are ‘part of the service’ in enterprise clouds. The time scale of application development for mobile devices has been forced to shrink dramatically: from the multi-year cycles of thick-client PCs, to the five-month cycle that’s now typical for Android devices. If a cloudish platform promises developers nothing more than a ‘familiar development experience’, shouldn’t that be considered hazardous to one’s health? Can any developer expect to succeed, in this world of rising expectations, if applications take just as long to develop—and just as much effort to maintain and improve—as they’ve needed for the past two decades?

This Cloudstock comes on the heels, of course, of Apple’s new iPad announcement just yesterday: we’re talking about a device that’s only existed for less than two years, but in the most recent quarter outsold the unit volume of PCs from any vendor. We’re hearing a rising demand that application providers stop thinking of tablets as merely complementary devices for content consumption: that applications treat tablets in general, the iPad in particular, as first-class clients. What’s also implied in that demand is a cloud-first philosophy that lets users think about the work they want to do, or the resources they want to use, instead of thinking about the management of devices and the manual movement of content from one to another. We’re committed to that, and we hope to raise developers’ expectations of how the cloud will meet their needs in an increasingly mobile and multi-device world.

It’s not as if developers have never had to do a Big Rethink before. Twenty years ago, we saw some companies try to migrate an old-model application to a graphical user environment, with less than stellar results. Companies that reconceived their applications, thinking from the viewpoint of user experience to use the new environment well, did much better.

The cloud presents a similar moment of challenge – and opportunity for response. Let’s talk about it next week in San Francisco.

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