Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff dislikes Oracle and Microsoft and cannot resist revealing his reasons
If there was a theme for Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff’s question and answer (Q&A) session at Cloudforce in New York, it was how to run an enterprise software business that is vastly different from the world Oracle and Microsoft dominated.
Noting that Oracle appears to simply want to sell database computers and that Microsoft’s approach for “Windows everywhere” has run its course, Benioff referred to the new business software world as the “social enterprise”.
In a Salesforce nutshell, it is selling customer relationship software as a service online through a Web browser on any device, from desktops to smartphones and tablets. Salesforce then augments that service through social technologies, such as status updates and file sharing.
Social brand monitoring
Benioff (pictured) and his team launched their most ambitious social enterprise effort yet in the form of the Social Marketing Cloud, which is grounded in the company’s Radian6 software, acquired earlier this year for $326 million (£208m). Radian6 builds social monitoring, engagement and analytics tools to help companies better understand the market’s perception of their brands, and how to use that information to better appeal to customers.
True to Benioff’s allegiance to mobile as the viable platform of the future for enterprise applications, Salesforce also made its AppExchange store available on Apple’s iPhones and iPads, as well as on Google’s Android smartphones and tablets.
While Benioff breezed through two hours of customer and product success stories, ranging from the Chatter social collaboration platform, to Database.com, the Heroku Ruby on Rails development platform among other toolsets, he preserved his snarky self for the Q&A for press and analysts later here at Cloudforce.
Typically, he bashed Oracle and Microsoft and praised Facebook, which he holds up as the consumer operating system of the future, as well as the platform through which he bets his customers market themselves and engage with their own customers.
For example, Benioff said that despite Oracle’s acquisition of RightNow Technologies in an apparent bid to gun for Salesforce’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) CRM business, RightNow’s product is not that good. Both Zynga and Electronic Arts, he noted, terminated their deals with RightNow to get on Salesforce.
What about Oracle’s strategy to challenge Salesforce? Benioff said it looks like Oracle just wants to keep selling companies database computers. “I don’t know what their strategy is,” he said, adding that perhaps Oracle wants to be the Teradata of the 21st century.
He also repeated a rumour he had heard that Oracle was jettisoning its CRM on Demand software and moving the existing customers to its Fusion platform, which he noted was not a multi-tenant cloud.
Breaking social taboos
Generally, repeating rumours about rivals is taboo for CEOs, but Benioff is no traditional CEO. He noted that perhaps Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is turning his company into a “scavenger” of dead or dying companies.
The mercurial executive was equally hard on rival Microsoft, whose Dynamics CRM product Salesforce challenges. Benioff believes Microsoft hitched its wagon to Windows for far too long and noted that the company has not had any marked success stories in the enterprise of late.
The company, he said, is known for being closed, which is why developers have moved to open-source development tools such as Ruby on Rails. Asked about Windows Azure, he flipped the question back, calling on the audience to name Azure’s three biggest customers.
Another dart: “Microsoft also has a tablet by the way. They’ve got a phone. … They’ve got a lot of ’em in a warehouse.” The remark was a typically not-so-subtle shot at Microsoft’s Windows Mobile/Phone market share.
He also said Microsoft Windows 8, the next-generation operating system, is a big “who cares?” and that Facebook, Google and Twitter are the companies that interest him most.
“I think they’ve lost their relevancy,” Benioff said of Microsoft. “I just don’t think they matter anymore.” He finished his anti-Microsoft rant by saying he has “no affection” for the company.
Benioff discussed several other points during his Q&A.
- Asked about Salesforce’s return on investment, Benioff called on Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann to speak on his behalf. Wettemann revealed that 70 or so case study audits said that for every $1 (£0.64) spent on Salesforce CRM, customers reported getting $5 (£3.19) and change back on their investment.
- Benioff also noted that with the new Social Marketing Cloud, Salesforce has moved to a social enterprise licence, which lets businesses buy software deployments rather than just sample with per-user pricing. “Customers want to buy in bulk instead of per-user pricing,” Benioff said.
- Salesforce’s Do.com – the task management application it acquired from ManyMoon, moved to its Heroku platform and rewrote in HTML5 – is launching in a few weeks.
- Salesforce is building Salesforce.com Connect, which uses the REST API to let Chatter connect between Salesforce and other third-party services. Think Facebook Connect, but for Salesforce.
- Salesforce has acquired the domain www.social.com, but does not yet have a product strategy for it – at least, none that Benioff or his cohorts were inclined to divulge at Cloudforce.