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Five questions for Salesforce.com at Dreamforce

Chris Kanaracus | Sept. 18, 2012
Salesforce.com has grown into a company much broader in scope than its name would suggest, having moved well beyond its roots in on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) software.

In addition, Salesforce.com has seemed to keep Heroku at arms-length from a marketing perspective. The company still has its own website, which features a much different look and feel from Salesforce.com's own. In fact, it's difficult to immediately discern that Salesforce.com now owns the vendor, based on Heroku's homepage.

Nor has Salesforce.com made overt moves to bring together the two platforms on a technical level.

Some sense of where it's all going could come at Dreamforce, however, during a keynote by Salesforce.com co-founder and executive vice president Parker Harris.

Are there too many irons in the fire?

Harris' talk is just one of a slew of product keynotes slated for Dreamforce. Others will cover the company's Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Work.com HR software, Chatter and the Data.com business data service.

Plenty of live customers from big-name companies as well as Salesforce.com executives and marketing staffers will deliver the goods, which suggests that all of the company's product lines have gained some level of maturity.

But the fact that Salesforce.com had to break out the topics into all those sessions also speaks to the growing complexity of its offerings.

Therefore, the onus will be on Benioff, a formidable orator, to tie it all together for customers during his own keynote.

Pressure on partners?

At last week's TechCrunch Disrupt conference Benioff revealed that Salesforce.com would be entering yet two more lines of business, identity management and online document storage and backup, with ventures called Salesforce Identity and Chatterbox.

During Dreamforce, Salesforce.com is expected to discuss in more detail these moves, which are being seen by some as direct attacks against partners such as startups Okta and Box, the latter of which Salesforce.com has actually invested in.

But Benioff said he didn't view the industry as a "zero-sum game" and isn't interested in killing smaller companies.

Still, Salesforce.com's move into these areas as well as marketing, where it has longtime partners in the form of companies such as Marketo, could be causing some angst.

Salesforce.com has spent about US$1 billion in total to purchase Buddy Media, which provides tools for delivering targeted marketing through social media sites, and Radian6, maker of social analytics software.

At Dreamforce, marketing partners may find out if Salesforce.com plans to go even further into their turf.

"Salesforce.com is a juggernaut," said Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, a cloud subscription billing and commerce software vendor and Salesforce.com partner. "If you're a partner and you don't think they're taking a hard look at your space, you're being completely blind."

"Any partner that's not thinking about dealing with Salesforce.com as a potential competitor or acquirer," he added.

In order to survive, "you've got to produce something of high value, with a high barrier to entry, something that's really, really hard to do," said Tzuo, who was also one of Salesforce.com's early employees. "If they think your product's easy to reproduce, and it's important to them, you're screwed."

 

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