Midway through the demos at Salesforce.com's lunch event the other day, I noticed an interesting trend. As Dan Farber illustrates in his joust with Marc Benioff and affiliated post, Marc's "death of software" logo--the red circle and line through the word "software"-- is growing tattered at the seams. It still performs the same old magic for the uninitiated, such as the video developer from SFU who sat across from me at the playground lunch table the other day. "What does that mean, no software?" he asked, referring to my Salesforce baseball cap from a previous event.
It's about services on demand, I said then, and Marc says now. As Farber says, it's a supersalesman grabbing you by the lapels. Inside the browser window, it's still software, says Dan. I agree. How the bits arrive is important, but only a detail. The platform is what's new--it's not Windows, or Java, or LAMP, or Symbian. It's the browser. The hat could just as easily be a circle and line through the word "Microsoft."
Yes, Marc is a sales maestro, and living by that sword means you risk dying by it. But in this case, his skill may unfairly obscure the success of his insight. I remember the early days of my tenure at InfoWorld, where Mike Vizard brought me in as Test Center director and back page columnist (back in the day when back page meant anything) to stoke the fires of Web services. Back then Benioff would show up every few weeks just to cheerlead us about our push into Web services, at a time when such thought leadership was roundly and loudly derided.
For those of you who say the same thing today about RSS, podcasting, and attention, you have a benchmark for how far out in front of the market we, and Marc, were. Imagine Marc's delight to say, as he did repeatedly at Tuesday's event, that those who decry the impact and trajectory of Web services deployment should note that 20% of Sforce API calls are over Web services. And tellingly, as Sforce product marketing director Adam Gross told Farber and I, 100% of Salesforce integration with other packaged apps is over Web services protocols.
As I often joke with Marc, he's now delivering what he promised for so long. And while Jim Allchin is now on a press road show about the latest version of Longhorn, Salesforce is openly talking SOS--the Salesforce Operating System. Multiforce is Marc's pitch, but I like SOS as in help is on the way. Here's that new trend I promised you in graf one, by the way. Every single one of the demos was running--without comment, mind you--on Firefox. Not only is Adam Gross showing Excel-like auto formulas in Sforce, but he's completely routing around the Microsoft hairball.
In and of itself, Salesforce does not present a comprehensive threat to Microsoft. But Benioff doesn't need to contribute all of the disruption in order to ride the momentum of the Net operating system. He can sit back and let Google and Adam Bosworth take a chunk out of Office with a Gmail-hosted suite of ad-supported services. It's no coincidence that Bosworth is a Salesforce advisor, nor that the early editions of a Salesforce offline solution that used the IE-based XML store are, according to Gross, being migrated to an architecture based on Bosworth's Alchemy intelligent caching mechansim work at BEA. I also note Allchin's mention of "reworked client-side caching" in an eWEEK story.
What Microsoft seems not to get is that every Longhorn feature comes with an undercutting message: it doesn't work across the superset operating system of the Net. Firefox features all come with the opposite message. And when I get my Firefox/Thunderbird hybrid inforouter, then Outlook goes byebye on an interesting set of enterprise machines. Add Skype presence and location data, Skype/iChat interoperability, de.licio.us/Rojo tag sharing, and attention-based offline feed synchronization, and we're hapnin' baby.