Salesforce.com ready for 'difficult second album'

One year on, how do you follow an IPO...? By claiming you're the next Microsoft of course...
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor on

One year on, how do you follow an IPO...? By claiming you're the next Microsoft of course...

Salesforce.com has bullishly stated its intention to make mid-2005 as remarkable as the year-ago period which saw its IPO. This time it plans to make a splash through innovation and outspokenness as opposed to flotation and outspokenness.

Following up the relative success of an IPO which, for many, signalled a return to favour of dot-com stock was never going to be easy but CEO and chairman Marc Benioff told analysts, customers and the media yesterday that the anniversary of that float will be marked in June with new releases and a forceful focus on delivering his company's vision – whose endgame remains the death of software and a place as 'the Microsoft of on-demand'.

Speaking at the company's first Integrationforce event in San Francisco, Benioff previewed the release of Sforce 6.0 and Sforce Partner Portal, which enables customers to share CRM data with partners via a self-customised version of their Salesforce.com service.

Customisation was a major theme in Benioff's address. For Salesforce.com, he insisted, 'on-demand' is as much about getting exactly what you want as a customer, not just when you want it. The freedom to build upon the service a customer had signed up for on day one is paramount, he said.

"We are of course excited about our own applications but more exciting to me is the fact people are building their own applications [on top of their salesforce.com application]," he said.

To this end the salesforce.com Partner Portal toolkit will also be shared with the open source community, he added.

The ability to boot up, log in and access the Salesforce.com service and start using it from minute-one is a benefit Benioff highlights as setting his company apart from the more traditional players in the CRM software market.

As is now typical of Benioff – prone to headline courting moments of outspokenness – he also took the opportunity to rub salt into old wounds in his relationship with rivals in the CRM space.

"Unfortunately Peoplesoft, SAP and Siebel couldn't be here with us today," he said, before boasting of stealing a march on a number of competitors and their development cycle.

Of the forthcoming raft of new releases Benioff said: "We're fully about delivering a new vision – not in 2008 – but today." It was a dig, he explained, at the tentative delivery dates of Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Siebel's on-demand solutions.

Phil Robinson, global VP marketing for Salesforce.com, said strong growth and revenues more in line with traditional players in the CRM space won't dilute this fighting spirit.

"Why should we change? We're still capable of mixing it up a bit," he told silicon.com – referring to a recent stunt to upstage and disrupt a Siebel conference. Robinson told silicon.com he expects the growth of on-demand to represent as fundamental a shift as the move from mainframe to client-server.

"Whether Salesforce.com is part of that is up to us," he said, predicting Salesforce.com will be to on-demand what Microsoft was to client server.

"I don't see anybody else doing it," he said, backing up his claim with news of the recent additions of Orange and Cisco to a growing list of customers.

There is certainly still a vibrancy and a 'doing things differently' mentality which surrounds Salesforce.com. Pete Fife, senior business analyst at Fortinet, a customer of Benioff and co, described the Partner Portal choicely as being "slicker than snot".

On a less business-related matter Benioff, it was noted by one delegate, "has entered his beard stage" – which was described as a right of passage for all CEOs in the tech space – most notable among them of course Benioff's former mentor and boss Larry Ellison at Oracle.

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