It's hard to say which is more disruptive in San Francisco today: tearing up downtown streets for a new cross-town subway or Dreamforce, the tech conference that has added 135,000 pedestrians to the scene. Both represent changes that will affect community members and businesses on a broad scale.
The technology shifts were outlined at the start of the four-day conference by a panel of senior Salesforce executives.
The message was reinforced a short while later when other managers outlined how the company's new Community Cloud will make it possible for non-technical business managers to build branded communities in a half-hour.
The Internet of Things (IoT), the spontaneous formation of virtual communities, cloud-based analytics, the power of smartphones and other shifts will lift society from personal computing to the age of intimate computing, panelists said.
It isn't just the emergence of mobile, IoT, social and analytics, but what those elements can do when combined, said Peter Coffee, vice president of strategic research. He compared it to how sodium and chloride combine to make salt. "When you put them together, you get entirely new kinds of behavior," he said.
In the social realm, Coffee noted that communities do not need a company's permission to form. "These communities are forming, and they may know more about your business than you do," he said.
Peter Schwartz, the company's futurist, predicted that the personal devices we carry with us will increase in the capabilities by "3 to 4 orders of magnitude" before 2020, moving us to an age of "intimate computing, environments and networks will know a lot about you," he predicted.
Schwartz compared Google Glass to Apple's original Newton. Although the Newton was largely a flop, he noted it led to the creation of the iPod. "It doesn't work that well," he said of Google Glass, "but it gives you a sense of what the device could be."
The new Community Cloud is a reinvention of Salesforce's Site.com with a community spin. It includes a new design tool that will let business users build customized branded communities in as little as 30 minutes using one of three included templates, said Michael Chou, director of the Services Cloud.
Additional templates and flexibility will be added, other managers said.
Though somewhat limited, the tool allows businesses to choose colors, fonts, product categories and other elements that are fundamental to their organization.