Marc Benioff has found a new enemy - Microsoft.
The Salesforce chief executive kicked off his Wednesday Dreamforce keynote with a long rant about the "evil empire", in response to a campaign Microsoft has been waging against the on-demand software pioneer.
Salesforce recently won a legal suit when Microsoft tried to sue the firm, and on Monday Microsoft announced a $200 rebate deal for Salesforce customers willing to switch over to Dynamics CRM Online. The Redmond giant has also taken to turning up at Salesforce events - at Dreamforce they were out in force on Segways bearing the message: "I didn't get forced".
This was also the slogan for a Microsoft advert running in The Economist, featuring a business man named 'Bernard'. Benioff managed to have the last laugh over Microsoft though, when he brought 'Bernard' out onto the Dreamforce stage, to personally apologise to him for "forcing him".
"There are forces out there trying to stop us," Benioff said. "They don't want us dancing to Stevie Wonder. They don't want us dancing to will.i.am."
Benioff was referring to the Dreamforce gala event on Tuesday night, where Wonder and Will entertained an excitable crowd - none more so than Benioff himself, who late in the evening leapt up to join will.i.am on stage in a rather fetching baggy T-shirt and baseball cap. Not sure he's been getting any style tips from the Black Eyed Peas singer.
But behind the joviality lies a more serious message for Salesforce, according to William Band, a CRM specialist at analyst Forrester Research.
Band said that until 2007, Microsoft did not have a credible CRM offering, but it is now managing to get on the list with enterprises he speaks to. He added that Microsoft is going for a very aggressive pricing strategy, at half the cost of Salesforce, and the fact that Benioff spent so much time on the issue indicates that Microsoft is getting more consideration in the online apps space.
Still, at least Larry Ellison must be happy with the situation, if Microsoft takes on the role the Oracle chief executive normally plays of chief supplier of Benioff jokes.
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