Salesforce.com's Benioff talks growth, Microsoft

Salesforce.com's outspoken CEO discusses the vendor's evolution and the road ahead

By , IDG News Service |  On-demand Software, Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com has come a long way from its beginnings as an on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) vendor.

While Salesforce.com has been in the application development business for years through its Force.com platform, in the past year that strategy has been super-charged through a string of acquisitions and product launches like Database.com, a stand-alone service that exposes Salesforce.com's database infrastructure for use by developers.

It's also closing in on $2 billion in annual revenue and 100,000 customers.

All of this had Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff in a characteristically confident and outspoken mood during a recent exclusive interview with IDG News Service.

Benioff discussed Salesforce.com's recent acquisitions, revealed where the company has no current plans to invest, and launched a broadside at Microsoft, which has gotten into the cloud development business with its Azure platform.

Why are you buying so many companies? How will you avoid losing focus?

Our job is to continue to add value to our product lines in areas where we see things changing very rapidly. We bought a company called Heroku, which offers Ruby on Rails. Ruby on Rails is the fastest growing language on the Web today. A slightly different example: We bought a company, Radian6, that has customers like Dell or Gatorade which have defined the next generation of marketing through social media monitoring. Radian6 is social media analytics. It's all the analytics on what's happening in the public social networks. It's the easiest way to listen to customers. That's an area we have to be in.

This is new technology that we have acquired to extend our platform and move more rapidly. A lot of enterprise software companies have been acquiring old companies and consolidating maintenance revenue streams. That's not what we're doing.

Last year, you formed a partnership with VMWare around VMForce, which is a development platform for Java applications. You have some tools that let Microsoft .NET developers interact with Force.com, but how about a cloud with strong .NET support, like Microsoft's own Windows Azure?

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