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Salesforce.com Moves Microsoft Excel To The Web


Microsoft released its first version of Excel in 1985. Now, at the age of 21, the spreadsheets are leaving home. They're moving away from Microsoft Office for a new life online at Salesforce.com.

JotSpot Tracker is an online, collaborative spreadsheet that can import Microsoft Excel files. Though it lacks the depth of Microsoft's software, it offers basic spreadsheet functionality and unique mash-up and sharing features.

On Wednesday, wiki application company JotSpot plans to announce the availability of its JotSpot Tracker spreadsheet and other collaborative services though Salesforce.com's third-party online software marketplace AppExchange.

JotSpot Tracker is an online, collaborative spreadsheet that can import Microsoft Excel files. Though it lacks the depth of Microsoft's software, it offers basic spreadsheet functionality and unique mash-up and sharing features.

"The basic Office-like capability is moving online," says Joe Kraus, CEO of JotSpot, adding that his company's goal is not to simply clone Excel for the Web. "Our view is you need to play the traditional Microsoft strategy of embrace and extend."

"I believe, ultimately, Excel is going to be Excel on the Web," Kraus explains. "What we need to do is be the 20% of Excel that 80% of the people use and then extend it with stuff you can't do in Excel at all."

For example, when dates are entered into a JotSpot Tracker, they're immediately available in a calendar view in addition to a spreadsheet view. And when those dates get changed, the changes are reflected on the calendar. Another example is that properly formatted address data in a JotSpot Tracker automatically gets integrated, or mashed-up, with a Google Map.

Beyond built-in integration with third-party data services, JotSpot is pushing the Excel envelope by expanding what can be done with spreadsheet cells, such as attaching documents to them, and by enabling online spreadsheet sharing.

As Kraus sees it, JotSpot's technology complements Salesforce.com's CRM service. "Salesforce has a lot of structured data capability, but actually not a lot of collaboration," he says. "And JotSpot has a lot of collaboration, but not a whole lot that Salesforce offers. So we look at this as the first of many things that we're trying to integrate."

Although JotSpot is significantly smaller than Salesforce.com -- the former with 1,500 corporate customers and over 15,000 users, the latter with 22,700 corporate customers and 444,000 subscribers -- the deal affirms the viability of both companies as technology platforms.

"This is probably the most meaningful mainstream validation of wiki technology to date," observes Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group, adding that the collaboration features should be "very significant" for Salesforce customers.

JotSpot, Kraus says, it likely to prove most useful to Salesforce users after deals get closed. "Salesforce is a great tool for helping you close a deal," he says, "but once a deal is signed, and the implementation teams swing into action, that's typically when you leave Salesforce and start passing spreadsheets around."

Because JotSpot spreadsheets live online and can be shared across companies, project schedules, client contact lists, and other project resources are always available and up-to-date, something that's rarely true when trading spreadsheets via E-mail.

As for the impact of the announcement on Microsoft, O'Kelly says that Salesforce customers will have fewer reasons to look beyond their browsers to the desktop. However, he says, "Microsoft is not oblivious to the utility of wikis." In fact, Microsoft Office 2007 is expected to include blogging and wiki tools.


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