Benioff plays keynote martyr, markets Salesforce wares

Salesforce.com's CEO Marc Benioff rages against Oracle during his last-minute, rescheduled speech about "the social revolution."

SAN FRANCISCO--Salesforce.com CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff is not happy with Oracle, and he didn't mince words one bit during his last-minute rescheduled keynote speech, which he gave across the street from Oracle OpenWorld 2011 on Wednesday morning.

Benioff's earlier planned OpenWorld keynote was canceled abruptly by Oracle on Tuesday afternoon with an offer to reschedule for 8 a.m. PT on Thursday--basically when the conference was ending.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff Screenshot by ZDNet

Nevertheless, Benioff used that exact incident as a jumping point for describing what's wrong with Oracle OpenWorld and the company putting on the show. He gave his own non-OracleWorld speech at a restaurant in the city's St. Regis hotel.

In many respects, Benioff's talk was a replay of his Dreamforce keynote speech with a few tweaks. Nevertheless, Benioff used his Oracle keynote fiasco to knock a competitor and push his social enterprise mantra.

Arguing vehemently that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison "wasn't in touch with the sense of the audience," Benioff said that Oracle OpenWorld, "has mostly been about a next-generation, mainframe computer."

"This is not the next great thing in our industry," Benioff said plainly, moving back towards the over-arching theme of Dreamforce 2011 a few weeks ago and the idea of the "social revolution."

"We're being ushered into a new era thanks to Mark Zuckerberg," Benioff posited, noting that "this social revolution is actually how our team...was able to use this new technology to turn on a dime starting at 3:30. I dont think we could have done that two years ago."

(Also see: Oracle vs. Salesforce.com's Benioff goes WWE: We're being played.)

"People now have an alternative way of communicating. You don't have to have the formal Oracle OpenWorld communication to organize in a few hours," Benioff he added later.

To understand the power of social media, Benioff said that all we have to do is look at situations (and demonstrations) ranging from Wall Street to the Middle East. He argued that it's our opportunity to grab that social technology and use it transform our own lives.

"It's really about you having to listen to customers and employees in a whole new way," Benioff warned, "If you're not paying attention to what's going on with them, you will face what has HP has faced."

Noting that there are 1.1 billion social media users worldwide, Benioff argued that these social networks are transforming user behavior, which is going to create a ripple that affects every part of our personal and work lives.

Benioff cited European airline KLM as one of its customers that has best grasped the importance of knowing who its customers are and what they're like by via social media, including having 130,000 Twitter followers and using Facebook to get in touch with its frequent flyers.

"The Web is dying," Benioff said, "The social networks are taking over."

Slightly to the contrary, Facebook's CIO Tim Campos posited during the keynote that "the Web is being built around people," explaining that instead of looking for information in directories like in the early days of the Web, we now use the people we know and trust as our primary sources for information.

When Benioff asked how many proprietary mainframes that Facebook uses, Campos replied that everything is open-sourced for scalability and other reasons, and that there isn't much of a mainframe infrastructure set up for the world's largest social network.

"They're able to use next-generation technologies to build next-generation services," Benioff replied with joy.

Benioff pointed towards several Silicon Valley giants (specifically Apple, Amazon, Groupon, Google, and Facebook) besides Salesforce.com, of course, which he asserts has understood these concepts and are using them to create jobs and growth within the industry.

Just like what venture capitalist Marc Andreessen noted last week during BoxWorks 2011, Benioff made it clear that he thinks that Oracle is falling behind and just doesn't not understand the power of the cloud and the effects of social media in the industry.

"This social revolution has created a social divide," Benioff acknowledged. "This social divide has to be solved. There are many people at Oracle OpenWorld that didn't know this has happened."

This story was originally published on ZDNet's Between the Lines.

 

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