Bait me and I’ll bite. Say the word “surprise” and I’ll want to know what it is, immediately. Give me a reason to believe that something unexpected might happen, and I’m going to dig. It’s my nature. I’m a headhunter and a journalist, research and curiosity are in my blood.

Enough said. 

I want to know exactly what File Storage, File Sharing, File Synchronization news Salesforce and Alfresco will be making this week. Will they be making announcements together or individually and independently (as Alfresco may have done today)? Both companies appear to be on deck to make cloud content collaboration announcements at Dreamforce.

Please note that, as of this writing, I have no inside information. Most of what I refer to has already been published on the web. “Information” that I pair together in the paragraphs to follow may or may not prove to be related. Everything else is pure speculation. A data scientist who is skilled in predictive analytics would certainly be nice to have around right now. That being said …

First a bit of backstory.

On the Salesforce Front

Last week, at TechCrunch Disrupt, Salesforce.com head honcho Marc Benioff dropped a bombshell on its platform partner Box.com. He announced that his company would be throwing its hat into the online File Storage, File Sharing world with its own version of Box. Its name? Chatterbox.

The announcement, made during a casual Fireside chat at TechCrunch Disrupt, sent shockwaves through the Enterprise SaaS world for two reasons: first because it potentially changes the cozy relationship between Salesforce (revenue US$ 2.266 billion with 2.1 million subscribers) and enterprise file storage and sharing leader Box (Box claims 10 million subscribers but this figure includes free non-enterprise subscriptions at the individual consumer level); and second because Benioff is an investor in Box.

Though we don’t know exactly how Chatterbox will work, there seems to be a consensus that the “box” part of Chatterbox refers to file storage and sharing and that “Chatter” refers to Salesforce.com’s trusted enterprise social/collaboration network, Chatter.

Benioff inferred that a more detailed announcement related to Chatterbox would be made this week at Salesforce.com’s annual user conference, Dreamforce. That being said, it doesn’t seem too far a leap to make to venture that Chatterbox will be a service that offers content storage, sharing and collaboration on the cloud, which may very well deem Box redundant to some Salesforce users.

What did Alfresco Just Announce and Is there More to Come?

On the Alfresco front, the Open Source Enterprise Content Management leader says on its own site that “we are using Dreamforce 2012 to ANNOUNCE and demo new technology that solves the content chaos problem in a way that no company has ever solved it before.”

Dreamforce 2012 doesn’t start until tomorrow.

Earlier TODAY Alfresco announced a new release that appears to offer Cloud Syncing for all Content versus selected files. CMSWire writer David Roe writes of the new release, “Alfresco is talking about syncing a full enterprise content management system with all the histories, all the file versions, all the metadata, and all the different kinds of content that you would find in a typical Enterprise CMS.”

As an aside, this appears to do more than a cloud file sharing service like Box aims to do. But it may be very similar to the capabilities that an integrated EMC Syncplicity/SaaS-ified Documentum (which seems to be where EMC IIG is going) would offer, though it would also include true mobile sync.

But that’s not all Alfresco’s web page is promoting when it speaks of its presence at Dreamforce. There’s this too: “(oh, and we might have a little Salesforce.com surprise up our sleeve as well).”

And while the “surprise” could be a kiss from booth Babe, a piece of conference paraphernalia that says something like Salesforce & Alfresco Perfect Together or a chance to enter a drawing for an iPhone 5, it could also refer to something more, or nothing at all.

Starting Their Own Chatter

With all of the aforementioned to consider, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to speculate about whether Alfresco moved up its announcement by a day and made it before Dreamforce even started. Perhaps the Chatterbox pre-announcement (and, yes, we get that Alfresco offers true Enterprise Content Management versus File storage, Sync and Collaboration) took the Alfresco team by surprise, much like it did their Salesforce buddy/partner Box. This could be a way for Alfresco to get its word out before everyone started to talk about Chatterbox.

Here, by the way, is what Box boss Aaron Levie tweeted from the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference when he found out that Salesforce would be introducing Chatterbox.

AaronLevie_Tweet.jpg

It is, of course, also possible, that Alfresco has something else of substance yet to announce and that they’ll be doing it at Dreamforce. I’m all ears if anyone wants to clue me in.

And then there are those outliers, way outside-of-the-box, to consider. Like a real “Salesforce.com surprise.”

Sure, Salesforce has acquired twelve companies since January 2011, but Alfresco is Open Source, making it an unlikely target for acquisition. That being said, SalesForce has tried to get into the ECM space numerous times in the past, (since at least 2007) but by most accounts never with a product that would compete with the likes of Documentum, IBM, Open Text or Alfresco. Maybe there’s a new relationship in the wings?

Time will tell. Or it won’t (companies typically don’t publicly reveal that they’ve been taken by surprise unless it's obvious).

Either way, the Enterprise CMS space is getting quite interesting.