All customers "can expect to see a better portal experience including localization in numerous languages for our customers around the world," he said in the blog post. "Ultimately, we look to have one seamless, consolidated post-sale Web experience where all of our vibrant communities, customer forums, and support expertise blend together. We believe this will truly give anyone who needs answers and expertise the most efficient and effective experience possible."
Standard support is included at no charge with all Salesforce.com editions. Premier support costs 15 percent of license list price for Professional and Enterprise Edition users, while a Premier+ tier costs 25 percent of license list for Professional and Enterprise and is included with the Unlimited edition, according to Salesforce.com's website.
Premier plan users get around-the-clock phone access with a two-hour response time, as well as expanded training resources, according to Salesforce.com's website. They may also get an assigned support representative if they have enough CRM (customer relationship management) licenses or subscription fees. Premier+ adds in a series of administrative services.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has long positioned SaaS (software as a service) as a superior alternative to on-premises software, asserting that it's easier to deploy and upgrade.
But Benioff has also decried the long-standing practice of annual maintenance payments for on-premises software, which typically run 22 percent of license fees, even calling for "the end of maintenance" in a 2009 internal email that made its way to the media.
It was not clear Wednesday whether Salesforce.com's decision would generate widespread push-back from customers, as occurred with its recent announcement of an Analytics Edition that originally would have cost users extra money.
Customers complained about the analytics pricing, saying that the functionality was long-needed and should have been included in base subscription fees. Salesforce.com quickly relented and said the features would be rolled into some versions at no additional charge.
Salesforce.com is an "adaptive company" that takes customer feedback seriously, Hu said.
Still, "if you're a Standard customer, you're getting great support," Hu said. Salesforce.com's own internal surveys find that Standard support receives on average of nine on a scale of 10 from customers, he added.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com