The platform: It's most tech companies' Holy Grail. Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows is a classic example, having become the standard on millions of desktops around the globe. It's no secret that (NYSE:CRM) wants to enjoy the same ubiquity in on-demand business applications, and the launch of its Platform Edition is a big step in that direction. develops customer relationship management (CRM) offerings and delivers them via the Internet. To expand beyond this category, the company built AppExchange, allowing third-party developers to create their own array of on-demand applications for human resources, surveys, e-learning and so on.

Now, with Platform Edition, partners no longer have to purchase a license to's CRM product. Instead, they can leverage's powerful on-demand system to build their own custom applications, paying the same standard $50 to $100 per-person monthly fee that's already earned years of strong recurring revenue. AppExchange and the Platform Edition are fairly unique in the software world, making it tougher for rivals such as Microsoft, Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), and SAP (NYSE:SAP) to keep up.

"This was an important move, because it should encourage more application development," said Martin Schneider, senior analyst for enterprise software at the 451 Group. "It allows to be similar to a hosting provider as well."

On-demand applications have created a massive market opportunity. According to a report from Deutsche Bank, the market for on-demand software may reach $30 billion by 2013. While building this platform is certainly an ambitious move for, the company has demonstrated that it knows how to follow through, and that it has a ripe market waiting.

Further Foolishness, by popular demand:

Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, does not own shares mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 2,719 out of 25,386 in CAPS. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.