Enterprise technology is entering the “fun to watch” era. September’s playlist centers around online enterprise file-sync-n-share. This week’s disruptor: Salesforce.com, and they haven’t even made a formal announcement yet. 

But if someone’s allowed to spill the beans ahead of schedule, it’s Mark Benioff, the company’s Chairman and CEO. The guy’s a risk-taker; he recently jumped off a tall bridge into a flowing river in Fiji with motivational guru Anthony Robbins.

So after that, what’s the big deal about stealing your own company’s thunder and telling Michael Arrington and the entire TechCrunch Disrupt audience that you’ll be announcing a new product at the Dreamforce conference next week?

What's a New Company Between Partners?

"We have our Box competitor coming out next week which is called Chatterbox," he said in a fireside chat. (Note: it seems that Salesforce had previously talked about a product called Chatterbox, this is not the same one.)

It may be worth noting that Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie had left the stage Benioff was sitting on just a few minutes earlier AND that Benioff is an investor in the not yet publicly traded Box.

Drama? Or not so much?

This will likely mean the end (or the near end) of the Box for Salesforce app which was first made available in October 2009.

And Benioff didn’t make any apologies for cutting a partner out. "Our customers have come to us and told us they wanted 'Dropbox' for the Enterprise,” he said. “They want it integrated with our platform. They want our trust model, our security model. They want to have application services. They want to build apps with Force.com and do Chatterbox. They want to use Heroku and do Chatterbox. They want to use it on their own. So we have to step up and deliver Chatterbox.”

And he went on.

“Salesforce customers [will be able to] address those needs completely on Salesforce, rather than using multiple platforms ...” now he was smiling. “Our industry is not about The Hunger Games. I don't look at business as a zero-sum game. I don't. I've never seen it play out that way in our industry, and I think you innovate and you add value, deliver value back to customers, and you get value back from the world."

Box.com’s co-founder, Aaron Levie, sent out a tweet upon hearing the Chatterbox news:

AaronLevie_Tweet.jpg

And this probably isn’t the first time this year Levie’s felt awkward. In May EMC announced its purchase of Syncplicity, also a Box competitor. Just a year earlier Box and EMC had teamed up to deliver enterprise content management mobility through the cloud.

Levie’s press-facing reaction to the Box/EMC breakup was business-like, mature, and cool. He said “the market (Enterprise Cloud) is just a fraction of where we could be from a size standpoint,” so much so that "in the next three to five years it won’t be a competitive issue in terms of growth in the future … It’s an open market because there is no declared leader in enterprise cloud.”

What he says about Salesforce entering the Cloud File-Sync-N-Share market won’t likely be different.

The Big Questions

Though it’s way too soon to know how this market will play-out (and there’s not likely to be a single winner, but do we want different File Sync ‘n' Share solutions in the same Enterprise?), there are already questions worth asking, such as whether the Chatterbox solution will extend beyond the Salesforce platform or, in other words, will it be a strictly vertical play?

In Syncplicity’s case, it’s probably safe to bet that the play is for the entire Enterprise regardless of business process. Not only that , but it’s worth mentioning that Syncplicity is not all about Documentum; it’s a standalone product and EMC’s Storage sales team will be selling it too.

And Box.com, a purely horizontal play, has been (no pun intended) been playing nicely with others until now, but it’s hard not to wonder if that will change. After all, partnerships take time to build and getting dumped can’t be fun.

The other questions we’ll be asking in the next week, and as Enterprise technology moves to the cloud, may very well look at the customer who makes the decision to buy. Will it continue to be the CIO who likes to negotiate over a round of golf and a nice dinner or the end-user who just wants to pick his solution by trying it out via a web browser?

Everyone knows that management, IT and end users all have to be happy, but who’s going to foot the bill is a question worth answering.