Salesforce.com’s a platform company, Benioff and team insist

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Salesforce.com wants its technology to sit at the very heart of its enterprise customers’ IT strategies. That’s the message the company has been pushing this week at Dreamforce, its annual customer shindig in San Francisco.

In order to take such a central role, executives at the cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) supplier know that the company’s technology urgently needs to reflect the increasingly mobile and social-media dominated world in which customers’ employees operate.

To that effect, the company has this week announced Salesforce1, a new version of its cloud-based development platform, specifically tailored to feed information about customers, prospects and leads to employees on the move.

“We’re bringing all of your investment, all of your code, everything you’ve done with us into the present,” Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff told customers in his keynote presentation. Salesforce1, he insisted, is so powerful that he is able to run the entire $3 billion organisation that he heads from his mobile phone.

Salesforce1 incorporates ten times as many APIs [application programming interfaces] as anything that comes before, said Benioff’s co-founder Parker Harris, the company’s executive vice president of technology, in an exclusive one-to-one interview with IP EXPO Online. In effect, it’s a way for the company to offer richer mobile and cloud-development options to developers, exposing sales, service and marketing data to smartphones and tablets, and complemented with a new administrative app that enables IT teams to provision users and set information access rights for them, depending on seniority and role.

Executives at the company are deadly serious about their use of the word ‘platform’. After all, they know that the company isn’t just competing against other enterprise application vendors such as Oracle and SAP, but rather, against the platform-as-a-service vendors competing to win the hearts and minds of developers - companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

But Salesforce1 is just part of a wider vision at the company, which insists it’s trying to help companies tap into ‘the Internet of customers’. It’s a Salesforce.com twist on the concept of the ‘Internet of Things’, in which connected devices are able to communicate with other sensors, meters and devices, in order to report on their current status or location. In his keynote presentation, for example, Benioff mapped out for attendees - at some length - the potential benefits he would derive as a customer if his toothbrush was able to communicate data about its frequency of use and the health of his teeth.

“Salesforce includes social, mobile, cloud and connected as the key components for the Internet of Things,” said Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang in a post on the Dreamforce conference. “In order to meet the requirements of a third wave of computing that moves from Internet of Things to what Salesforce calls the Internet of Customers, the new platform is designed to support this customer-centricity convergence.”

It’s a huge opportunity for Salesforce.com, Wang says. He’s predicting there’ll be more than 50 billion connected devices and at least 150 billion connected endpoints by 2020. But he adds, “while Salesforce.com addresses three out of the five key components of digital business, the vendor still needs to provide video/unified communications and big data/analytics.”

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