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Annual Dreamforce Event Draws Record Numbers

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff kicked off his company's annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this week with eardrum-testing music, high-end customer videos, onstage executive cameos, and a keynote in "social revolution" overdrive. "Business is social!" Benioff declared from a stage set in the center of the packed Moscone auditorium. "It's the fastest growing segment of our industry, with 150 million customer conversations a day!"

"This social revolution is unlike anything we've ever experienced," Benioff said. "Every aspect of our world is changing. That is why this is the most exciting thing that is happening in our industry." He added, "The social revolution is a trust revolution, and the new social front office is where the trust revolution lives."

Amid the full-court-press sales pitch were some significant product announcements. For developers, the big news at this event is probably Force.com Canvas, a set of tools and JavaScript APIs designed to allow them to expose their apps as Canvas apps.The plan is to make it possible to integrate third-party apps in Salesforce -- any app in any language -- and allow them to run inside the Salesforce user interface with unified identity, secure access to records, and collaboration via Chatter. For.com Canvas is a pilot project; the company has said that it is planning for a winder 2013 release.

"The most exciting hardcore thing [Salesforce is] doing for developers are probably the Force.com Canvas, which provides a framework for integrating applications written in other programming language into Force.com," observed IDC analyst Al Hilwa.

One of the splashiest announcements was the official launch of Salesforce's Touch Platform. The company's new HTML5-based mobile application development framework is designed to "bring Salesforce to any mobile device, regardless of platform." The company already has mobile versions of its CRM software (Salesforce Mobile) and its social networking app (Chatter Mobile). But Touch is optimized for the market-leading tablets and phones, including Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iPhone and iPad, and a range of Android devices

Benioff brought Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts back to the Dreamforce stage (she appeared last year) to talk about the impact of mobile on her company. Pointing to her smartphone, she said, "These things truly are changing the world." She also talked about working closely with Salesforce to build the new Burberry World Live website. The project will "test the boundaries" of the customer experience, she said.

The Touch Platform was pushed on Wednesday to the Salesforce App Exchange, Benioff said.

IDC's Hilwa agrees that the mobile news is big, but he argues that the company's overall moves to strengthen its platform are more significant.

"Having mobile access to the Salesforce application from a variety of devices is a great new development and much needed," Hilwa told ADTmag, "but the platform and social investments are even more critical to Salesforce in the long run. Salesforce rightly understands that building a strong and durable application business is inseparable from building an application and developer ecosystem."

Hilwa is referring to the company's announcements of a new a "social marketing" suite (Marketing Cloud), a social-oriented human resource management system (Work.com), a new identity management system (Salesforce Identity), and a new file sharing app (Chatterbox).

Salesforce EVP Brett Queener took the stage to introduce the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. The new product suite uses the Radian6 social monitoring tool and the Buddy Media social marketing tool to bring marketing into the social revolution, he said. The Marketing Cloud combines several capabilities, including the ability to: track what people on the social web are saying about a company, generate social media content for the company, engage and interact with customers, launch and manage social campaigns, rout relevant content to the right people in an organization, and track ROI.

Benioff brought Men's Warehouse CEO and TV pitchman George Zimmer to the stage to talk about how his company is using the Marketing Cloud to target millennials, and Commonwealth Bank CMO Andy Lark, who said that "marketing has been the most underserved by tech."

The company is billing its new Work.com as a kind of social human resources management system. It's designed to provide a "social performance management platform that revolutionizes the way companies align around social goals, motivate their people with real-time recognition and rewards, and drives performance with continuous feedback and relevant performance reviews." As Salesforce EVP John Wookey put it, "HR software is about administration, not about driving success."

Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook, took the stage at the conference to explain the service. Campos has been credited with co-developing the system. "With traditional ERP and Human Resources Management systems, you have the concepts of the cost center and the org chart," he said. "These are important ways of organizing information, but what is a lot more important in managing employees is recognizing who they work with and allowing them to provide feedback to each other."

Salesforce cofounder Parker Harris took the stage to introduce Salesforce's new Chatterbox, which has been billed as a "Dropbox for the enterprise." A direct challenge to file sharing apps like Dropbox and Box, Chatterbox is designed to allow users to manage and share files "in the context of business," Harris said. Chatterbox is scheduled for release next year.

The company also introduced Chatter Communities for Partners, a new partner portal that aims to connect companies with distributors, resellers, and suppliers "to drive sales." The new portal replaces so-called legacy partner portals, the company said.

Salesforce COO George Hu took the stage to introduce Salesforce Identity, a Facebook-like ID management system for the enterprise. The single sign-on system can be pre-integrated across applications, Hu said, so that multiple apps can be accessed without multiple user names, passwords, and logons. Hu said the new ID service "is going to become your passport to any application in your enterprise," Hu said.

Benioff declared this year's Dreamforce conference to be the tech industry's largest event. With a reported 90,000+ attendees -- nearly double last year's numbers -- he might be right.

Posted by John K. Waters on September 20, 2012