Companies can share info with Salesforce’s upgraded CRM tool detailed the upcoming “Winter ’09” release of its core customer relationship management (CRM) software product, which allows sales and marketing employees to track sales leads and transactions with their customers.

During the Tuesday morning keynote at Dreamforce, the company’s main user and developer conference here in San Francisco, executives also announced the ability for two companies who use the product to share information if they partner in their respective markets.

In addition, Dave Girouard, president of Google Enterprise, gave conference attendees a brief update about the results of the Google and partnership that was announced earlier this year. That deal brought Google Apps to customers for free if they wanted the Web-based productivity apps that include Gmail (Google’s email service), calendar, documents, spreadsheets, and instant messaging.

During his remarks, Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff showed deference to he challenging economy ahead, saying he believes CRM software will become even more important as companies try to hold on and gain customers.

“It’s a remarkable time,” Benioff says. “With the times that we’re going through, there has never been a more important time to focus on our customers and our employees. There has never been a more important time for CRM.”

The new version of, due this winter, will be the company’s 27th release in its nine year history. follows the software as a service (SaaS) model, where a technology vendor hosts all the data on their own equipment while customers access the application through a Web-browser and pay a subscription fee (generally per user per month). It’s a term the company pioneered in the software market, gaining nearly 48,000 customers for whom they host the data of 410 million customer accounts.

While many of the updates to the software announced Tuesday were minor, the “Salesforce to Salesforce” addition to the product allows two companies who both subscribe to the vendor’s service to share sales leads and information that runs through their accounts. This could be of great value to industries that have partnered for market reasons, such as airlines.

As an example, Salesforce execs noted, airlines that fly different routes and partner to reach the same customer base could allow each other to stream information back and forth from their deployments.

“Delta and Air France, they need to go into account and co-sell together,” says George Hu,’s executive vice president of applications and marketing. “They both have sets of routes, and now they’re co-selling as a team more. You can connect your systems together. When you get a [sales] lead, it can flow right into your partners system.”

The winter release also includes the full integration of Instranet, a knowledge management (KM) system that acquired back in August. executives said the technology will help provide context (such as geography and product-related data ) for users as they search and query the system.

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