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Summary:

Reporters got a chance to ask the Salesforce.com CEO about anything, which they did. Here’s what he said.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff at Salesforce1 event.
photo: Barb Darrow

Microsoft’s decision to name a new CEO is a positive step, but comes too late for the software giant, according to Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, which is both a competitor to and customer of Microsoft’s.

The decision to name a new CEO was “very good … but probably 5 years too late,” Benioff said. “I know Microsoft well and have huge respect for them — I’ve competed with them for 25 years … but they haven’t evolved,” Benioff told a group of reporters after his Salesforce1 keynote in New York on Wednesday.

Microsoft, in his view, needs to “push the reset button on vision because the concept of Windows everywhere was interesting 20 years ago but doesn’t work today.”  

Having two former top dogs — current CEO Steve Ballmer and his predecessor Bill Gates — on the board would be daunting to any new CEO, he said. (For the record, a Microsoft spokesman said both Ballmer and Gates were re-elected to the board at the last annual meeting and that Ballmer will remain on the board as long as he’s CEO. But, the spokesman added:  “post new-CEO [we have] nothing to say yet.”)

Here are a few other tidbits from Benioff’s Q&A session:

On his former boss, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison:

It’s clear the two software execs enjoy sparring.  Two years ago, Ellison nixed Benioff’s keynote at Oracle OpenWorld at the last minute and Benioff made tons of PR hay out of that move.

Benioff said it’s all in good fun. “I joined Oracle in 1986 just out of USC and had a phenomenal experience being mentored by Larry Ellison [while] in my 20s and 30s. I’m still very good friends with him. He just came over for lunch.”

On Salesforce.com’s new mobile religion:

“All of our demos today were done on the phone, natively on Android and iPhone … I don’t think you’ll see any other enterprise software company  being able do that in the next few months.”

Benioff travels with his phone only, no laptop, and he sees that as the way of the future that Salesforce.com must align with and promote. Now that the company has its API story in order with Salesforce1, its products will all be “phone first,” he said. 

On whether Salesforce.com will go to OpenStack

There are no plans to use OpenStack at scale at Salesforce.com, contrary to recent reports coming out of Rackspace, a big OpenStack backer. That is not to say Benioff doesn’t like OpenStack or Rackspace, and he said OpenStack is likely running in-house somewhere.

“We have some of everything running in-house via our acquisitions but OpenStack is not core. I’m not sure how to do that. Maybe it’s a good idea — I love their vision and strategy — but it’ s not a near-term reality for us.”

On capitalizing on Mark Hurd’s mistake

When Oracle co-president Mark Hurd cut Keith Block loose, Benioff snapped up the man who ran Oracle North America sales for many years.

“I recruited Block for ten years and couldn’t get him till Mark Hurd relieved him of his duties. That’s the biggest mistake Hurd has ever made in my opinion. Block is the best sales executive in the business,” Benioff said. Block was indeed highly respected not just by Oracle customers but by the big systems integrators and channel partners that sell into many of those accounts. 

  1. This clears up the whole OpenStack at Salesforce.com thing. I never really understood how OpenStack would be part of SalesForce’s core offering; even from a internal perspective.

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