Salesforce.com released its Winter ‘07 upgrade to its customer relationship management (CRM) software as a service (SaaS) on Tuesday, with immediate availability. But customers waiting for the release of one of its key components, the Apex programming language, will have to wait a little bit longer.

Calling Apex a developer preview, with Beta not promised until "later this year" Salesforce.com is trying to extend its reach by establishing itself as a "platform" company, not unlike other major enterprise platform vendors such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, according to Ariel Kelman, senior director of platform product marketing.

When finally released, the Apex programming language – which uses a Java-like syntax – will give developers full programmatic control to build any application as an on-demand application.

According to Kelman, programmers will not have to worry about infrastructure, such as tuning applications for specific hardware, databases, or operating systems.

Apex will give corporate programmers as well as independent software vendors (ISVs) the ability to create data models, automate business logic, and create interfaces.

"We do the backup, tune performance, deliver network transactions, all the infrastructure needed to deploy an application worldwide," Kelman said.

Apex runs only on the Apex platform, but users will be able to connect to other applications through Salesforce.com's Apex Connect, which is currently available for Microsoft Office, SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) and, later this year for Oracle ERP applications.

Other new features in the Winter '07 release include a real-time messaging and integration bus to allow third-party applications and middleware to be notified of business events occurring in Salesforce.

Also available will be an Apex toolkit for Eclipse development.