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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Back in 1999, Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff asked a simple question that led to the creation of the billion-dollar, software-as-a-service (SaaS) giant he founded: Why isn't all enterprise software like Amazon.com?
"That's why I started Salesforce," Benioff said here at Monday's Google-hosted Atmosphere event for CIOs. "Today, I'm asking, 'Why isn't all enterprise software like Facebook?' If we give employees [software like] Lotus Notes, they'll say, 'This is not what I use.'"
But Benioff also conceded that plenty of companies haven't yet embraced any version of what's popularly known as cloud computing.
"We're moving to a world that works and looks more like Facebook and where your location is known. I know a lot of CIOs aren't in 'Cloud 1' yet," Benioff said. "I met with one last week that said he needed to move from MVS and I’m like 'Whoa!' We need to move faster."Enter what Salesforce's (NYSE: CRM) chief executive calls Cloud 2: the next iteration on the current state of cloud computing, characterized by the addition of social networking and real-time access to information in cloud applications.
"Social networking has passed e-mail and the kids in college now aren't using e-mail," Benioff said. "These are your future employees. There is a huge shift going on, that I position as Cloud 2, a second wave."
Recognizing that Facebook now has over 400 million users and, at its current growth rate, will have a billion before too long, Salesforce has designed its new Chatter collaboration softwarefor the enterprise to look and work like the massively popular social networking site -- with user profiles, complete with photos, and a place for status updates. It also features a Twitter-like ability to follow people as well as topics and documents.
"At work, you'll get to choose what you want to follow," Benioff said.
A beta version of Chatter is being tested by about 500 customers, and Benioff said 75,000 Salesforce customers will get it automatically when it's ready for full release this June.
"We've turned it on and had almost immediate adoption. It's lessened e-mail and the users are following data," said Doug Menefee, CIO at the Schumacher Group, an emergency services firm that is one of the beta testers for Chatter.