Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Dreamforce 2013 Keynote Recap #df13
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff made his annual pilgrimage to the Dreamforce 2013 keynote stage this week, where he filled in some details about the Salesforce1 launch.

Benioff explained what the new software platform means for the future of the company, and more importantly, what it means for Salesforce customers. "Rapid change is going on, and we have to work hard to keep up," he said. "It's all about speed, and things are more open than ever before in a collaborative world."

The Third Wave of Computing

Salesforce is credited with doing a lot in the past 15 years to help sales teams close deals and make more money for their businesses. But it seems disrupting sales force automation is so '90s — and that it is time for the company to embark on a mobile focused play with Salesforce1.

None of the technology Salesforce had built before now was readily available from mobile devices. Salesforce1 is apparently the software platform that will change that. The engineering team had to rewrite Salesforce APIs to get everything to work on mobile, Benioff said. From the look of what has been released so far, the Chatter social network is the core user interface (UI) for Salesforce1.

Part of that shift was inspired by the Facebook mobile UI, Benioff said, as well as the Twitter feed. Salesforce customers can now do everything they have been doing for years on a laptop on their mobile devices. This point was reinforced when Benioff said he no longer carried a laptop when he traveled — only his smartphone.

Benioff and Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris referred to Salesforce1 as a customer platform, a way for customers to do more on mobile devices to keep up with the pace of technology. Those changes  include the ability to connect to a growing assortment of devices, from cars and heart monitors to Google Glass and even toothbrushes.

Benioff made several references to his Wi-Fi enabled toothbrush throughout his address, and there were two rather detailed demonstrations of the connected device theme. They both attempted to show what the future of a tool like Salesforce1 would look like.

"We know we can do more, and we want to be able to hit the reset button on vision and on strategy," Benioff said. "We always listen to customers to continuously improve ourselves."

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Dreamforce 2013 Keynote Recap #df13
Connecting all manner of devices figures prominently in Salesforce's future.

Mixed Messages

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, Salesforce said revenue rose 36 percent to $1.08 billion, narrowly beating Wall Street expectations. A good deal of Salesforce's third-quarter success is likely due to the company's $2.5 billion buy of ExactTarget in June.

But if the company wants to grow organically instead of through acquisitions, it has to decide what's going to push its next line of growth, Matt Mullen, a 451 Research analyst, said after the keynote.

Is that where Salesforce1 fits in? Maybe. But the idea of a fully connected world is still in its infancy — and still confusing to many people.

One conference attendee seemed simply baffled by it. "Why in the world would I want a connected toothbrush?" wondered Jeff Simmons from North Carolina based RF Micro Devices. "That doesn't really help me. The only reason something needs to be connected is to mine data or maybe set policies." 

Simmons lamented the fact that more connected devices could make it harder to unplug from the digital world, even for a short time.

But Kathryn Brady, from Boston-based Wellesley Information Services, said she thought Salesforce1 looked awesome. "I think they nailed it," she said. "They've put everything in there so admins like me can customize what we need but still maintain control over it."

Brady said she works with people from age 22 to age 55, so a mobile ready system with a good user experience (UX) is really important.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an IT director at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif. said he was also impressed with what he'd seen so far with Salesforce1. "I found it innovative, but not surprising," Fitzpatrick said. He even liked the idea of a connected toothbrush.

"I'd like to one day see a smart tube of toothpaste that would know when it was empty and can get a new one ordered or even automatically shipped."

In 10 years, he added, there will be enough wearable medical devices available that will enable us to be a digitized people rather than just a digitized society. 

"Salesforce is kind of cool because it lays out this kind of vision, and the customers get to go out there and build stuff with it."