Salesforce.com has unveiled a new content management and collaboration service that it says will eliminate the need for companies to build proprietary portals to communicate with customers.

The software-as-a-service (Saas) vendor Salesforce.com said the new AppSpace offering will help companies better interact with their customers by letting them exchange documents and link spreadsheets. The hosted service will also let companies create custom work processes for dealing with their customers, the company said.

Kendall Collins, Saleforce.com's vice president of product marketing, called the new service "a new wqeb 2.0 model for how companies can directly engage customers with on-demand technology."

He noted that many companies have used costly proprietary technologies to build portals to communicate with customers. The AppSpace service can provide the same collaboration capabilities using an on-demand model that allows the applications to be easily and more cheaply deployed.

In effect, Collins said, AppSpace is the corporate version of the popular MySpace.com social networking site. "We are revolutionising the way companies share content with their customers," said Collins. "We view this as the end of the [proprietary] portal."

The AppSpace service is linked directly to Salesforce.com's core hosted customer relationship management (CRM) service and can also link to applications listed in Salesforce.com's AppExchange software marketplace.

"We believe that providing customers with a way to further build trust and have authentic communication with their customers is a foundational element of CRM's future," said analyst Denis Pombriant US-based consultancy Beagle Research Group.

AppSpace will be available on a limited basis next month as part of Salesforce.com's 2007 spring enhancement release. The service will be priced from $995 (£512) per month.