It's a computing show fit for rock stars and a popular military leader.
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Appearances by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and retired Gen. Colin Powell should only boost the buzz surrounding Dreamforce 2012, Salesforce.com's 10th annual conference. More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the four-day event, which starts Tuesday.
Held again this year in San Francisco, Dreamforce aims to showcase Salesforce.com's strong position in the customer relationship management (CRM) and cloud applications market. The company will unveil new products, users will mingle with other users, Salesforce partners will pitch their wares, and Powell will join several known business leaders in expounding the vision of a social enterprise.
After facing objections from just about every corner of society, Salesforce.com this month dropped its legal quest to trademark the phrase "the social enterprise." But that hasn't stopped the company from using the expression to underline the offerings of Dreamforce.
Between keynote speeches, break-out informational sessions and product launches, Salesforce.com hopes to bolster its cloud offerings for sales, service and marketing.
"What's typical of them is they'll have parts of keynotes and demonstrations of products for each of their major lines: Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud, which is kind of new," said Denis Pombriant, founder of Beagle Research Group LLC in Stoughton, Mass. "Perhaps more of their attention this year will be on Marketing Cloud. They've got a lot of products to hype. But marketing seems to be the idea that's gaining traction now."
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Pombriant, who will attend Dreamforce 2012, added that "marketing has been the stepchild of CRM for a long time as companies have focused on service and sales. But now sales and service are pretty well populated and companies are looking for new ways to approach the customer."
Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff recently predicted Marketing Cloud would someday reach $1 billion in annual revenue, Pombriant said. Service Cloud is expected to reach $500 million in annual revenue, with the potential to someday hit $1 billion, so it makes sense, Pombriant said, for Salesforce.com to shift its attention to marketing.
In a recent interview, Linda Crawford, executive vice president and general manager of Salesforce's Sales Cloud offerings, said Touch is one of the new products that will be demonstrated at the conference. Currently being tested, Touch is essentially the Salesforce platform on an iPad. It will allow salespeople to access Chatter -- Salesforce's enterprise social offering -- track sales accounts and access contacts, she said.
"Salespeople are inherently social people," Crawford said. "But salespeople are sometimes limited by their organization or company, dealing with the same territory, same sales team. But today, those same people can lock into [social] groups focused around their competition or an industry or a product line. They love the fact [that] they can get to other people quickly and not schedule a meeting."
At Dreamforce, Salesforce will also unveil Chatterbox, a file-sharing and online storage service that is already being called the enterprise version of Dropbox. It is expected to rival the enterprise file storage company, Box.
Benioff promoted Chatterbox this week at a TechCrunch Disrupt event, but revealed few details. Salesforce is expected to aggressively promote Chatterbox because it can slip into its widely used products, and the reputation of the company could allay IT concerns about the security of enterprise data in the cloud.
Benioff also dropped hints -- but no details -- about the pending release of Salesforce Idenity, which will offer single sign-on across numerous applications just as Oktka does.
And, in keeping with its emphasis on social, Salesforce will also launch an effort targeting social communities, Crawford said. As with Touch, she didn't offer many details.
Other product launches expected at Dreamforce include Work.com, the repackaging and redevelopment of Rypple, the human resources software company Salesforce.com acquired earlier this year.
Dreamforce will offer more than 750 work sessions that will focus on products and practices, including talks on data visualization, marketing in the cloud and enhancing CRM with contact center technologies. Meanwhile, 350 Salesforce.com vendor partners will pitch their products at the conference.
Aside from Powell -- who will talk about leadership alongside General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt -- other speakers include Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts. Representatives from Coca-Cola, Toyota and Facebook are also expected to speak.
A show of this size wouldn't seem right without music. The Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform a concert in the open-air Civic Center Plaza in downtown San Francisco. The California-based rockers' show will most certainly dwarf a concert by Pride & Joy, a Bay Area soul group that was the musical attraction of Dreamforce 2004.
To illustrate Salesforce.com's growth this past decade, the 2004 conference had only 9,500 attendees and saw a George W. Bush impersonator interrupt a keynote speech.
Dreamforce 2012 "demonstrates the good nature of San Francisco to take on seventy thousand people," Pombriant said. "That will be repeated at Oracle Open World, of course. It's like moving a couple of decent-sized towns into a city for a couple of days."