Turning the Guns Towards Redmond – #df10 #e20

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It takes stones the size of King Kong to point your guns in the direction of Microsoft, but I believe that is exactly what Salesforce did yesterday when they announced Chatter Freemium.

Of course, Marc Benioff has some big stones.  He took on Siebel and kicked their ass pretty good and they, at one point, were the big ape on the block.

A lot of people immediately quipped how this was going to be devestating for Yammer (here, here, here), but really, the real enemy for Salesforce is SharePoint, not Yammer. 

First of all, when you choose a competitor, you don’t pick the smallest, newest kid on the block, which is what Yammer is.  You pick the biggest, baddest mo-fo around, and in the case of collaboration software, it is SharePoint (see Behind the Cloud on how SFDC picks competitors).  Not only is SharePoint the biggest and baddest (worst?), but it is also the antithesis of what Salesforce is all about. SharePoint is big, clunky software that is hard to install, expensive to manage, impossible to keep current and no one likes it.

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Get it?

Here is the real issue – everyone bitches about adoption of SharePoint.  Everyone knows that no one uses it because it is a nightmare.  CIO magazine writes:

80 percent of respondents with SharePoint access continue e-mailing documents back and forth, even though SharePoint software was designed to prevent this clunky process.

That is embarassing, but MSFT doesn’t care because they either give a huge discount because their customers are on an enterprise license or they promise the world and that it will all be fixed in the next point release.

You know what doesn’t have an adoption problem?  Salesforce.  Most companies say “hey, if you want to get paid, you have to use Salesforce”.  They say it to the sales team, the marketing team & the support team.  It is an easy way to encourage adoption.  If your opportunity isn’t in Salesforce, you won’t get paid on it.  If your working a case and you want to get paid, make sure it is in Salesforce.  Try that with SharePoint and you’ll have a mutiny on your hands.

Added bonus – once you get those teams on board, teams like Finance, who need to see that the deals are there and Product, who need to help with support all fall in line and use the system too.

No adoption problems there.  Where you do have a problem is in things like finding people, having a quick conversation, editing a proposal or building a team to work on an RFI.  These are all business processes that would have historically happened in SharePoint, but along comes Chatter, which does, per TechCrunch:

  • Profiles
  • Status Updates
  • Real-Time Feeds
  • File Sharing
  • Groups
  • Filters
  • Invitations
  • Chatter Mobile
  • Chatter Desktop

To me, that sounds an awful lot like what SharePoint has done in the past with more social functionality than SP2010 has to offer, plus faster development cycles and a more supportive development channel.

While I’m not predicting the immenent demise of SharePoint, I do believe that SFDC has a great opportunity to strike a massive blow to an important piece of the MSFT picture.

 

Am I crazy? Is this right on?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments and tell me what you think.

What’s With All The Chatter?

There seems to be a trend happening in software / technology these days. We’ve gotten way out of control announcing products way before they are baked in an attempt to generate press and build FUD in a way that didn’t happen just a few years ago.Microsoft is guilty, announcing planned features in SharePoint 2010 almost a year before it is scheduled to ship.  Google announced Wave 2 months before developers could get their hands on it and who knows when it will be publicly available.  Today, Salesforce.com announced Chatter, a social integration tool that will turn water to wine and cram 10 pounds of productivity into a 5 pound bag. At least according to Marc Benioff during his keynote today. The downside of this miracle cure is that, like SP10 and Wave, it won’t be available until some undefined date way in the future.I’ve been hearing rumors about SFDC doing something cool around enterprise collaboration for a few weeks. I have to admit, my speculation was that they were going to announce a partnership to integrate with Google Wave.  The first announcements made Chatter sound like it was simple integration / Twitter-esque clone built on top of SFDC.After reading Charlene Li’s post, though, I’m intrigued about where this will go.  Some of her key points were:

Enterprise apps get social–and smart. This is more than merely integrating Twitter-like functionality into CRM and creating “social CRM”. This is a rethink and elevation of how information flows around an organization, and where it lives. The elevation of deals to be on the same level as people is significant — in every other social platform, people reign supreme and the world pivots around them. Look for social CRM providers like Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and many others to open up their platforms as well.

And:

This means your enterprise app will be “adopting” social technologies, moving away from sending notifications via email (and cluttering up your inbox) and instead, sending updates just like everyone else on your team into the news stream.  Essentially, your enterprise app will be “tweeting”, with it’s own “profile” and Chatter updates aggregated into one place.

This is pretty interesting and something that we’ve been working on for sometime at Socialtext.  On the one hand, SFDC will be a formidable competitor in the market place.  On the other, they are still 5 – 8 months from delivering anything in the best of circumstances.Also, there is still a level of acceptance that will need to be overcome.  Many of the CIO’s that I speak with are still skeptical of having tons of data in the cloud.  Salesforce brags that in 2011, 25% of apps will be in the cloud.  Simple math, but that means that 3/4 will still be on premise.  And let’s face it, most sales reps don’t use SFDC the way they should so paying $50 a month for a glorified contact management system beats hell out of a seven figure Siebel implementation.  It will be interesting to see what kind of acceptance having deal status and team interactions in the cloud will get. From what I’ve seen, it is cool if a small group is doing it, but when a big enough contingent of employees has conversations in the cloud, it makes everyone nervous.The second question that I have is around the level of integration.  They are currently promising a pie in the sky picture of this integration where everything is updating everything, but they haven’t explained anything at all about which apps this will work with (outside Salesforce) and what it won’t (assuming Oracle) nor have they gone into the security of having certain things shared and others not.  Don’t get me started on how this will map to a company’s archiving policy.Selling social software is hard.  I’ve often said that this is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had.  I’m excited about SFDC getting into the market.  I love the competition and it will raise the level of customer acceptance to another level. It’s another endorsement. And we could all use that.Other posts about Chatter:

What do you think? Will Chatter change the way you work, will it be a blip on your radar or will it just be mindless chatter? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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YHOO + MSFT: Did You Hear?

I’ve been thinking about MSFT & YHOO ever since Steve Souders went to Google about a month ago. Not so much in regards to an acquisition, but for what MSFT did to Borland during my first year there back in 1996 (I’m old).If you aren’t familiar with the history, during the battles between Visual Basic (MSFT) and Delphi (Borland), MSFT recruited away 30 members of the Delphi development team, including Paul Gross and Anders Hejlsberg, essentially killing Delphi and with it, Borland. MSFT threw obscene amounts of money at the Borland Delphi team. Literally, tens of millions of dollars.Why wouldn’t MSFT & GOOG do the same thing? Why not just identify a few dozen of the key people within the company, throw a ton of money at them and kill YHOO from the inside? Facebook did it to the west coast sales team a few years ago. Why not keep that going?  It would be cheaper than doing an acquisition.Then I started thinking about the old Bill Gates spam that came out in the early days. Remember that?  If you forwarded an email, Bill Gates would give you a few dollars for each person you sent it to because he was tracking some new email service?For $45 billion, MSFT just paid about $55 per user for YHOO’s 800 million users. MSFT may have been able to extend an offer to pay key users $100 to migrate their usage to MSN and generate some pre-defined number of page views. They would have still paid out a bunch of money, but it would have been far less than the $45B that they are paying for YHOO and they would have killed YHOO, possibly making them more intimidating to GOOG (maybe). It also would have gotten users on MSN faster than the integration will happen.Alas, Ballmer didn’t call me for guidance and selfishly announced the acquisition before I could offer my two cents. Two of the more perfect metaphors that I’ve heard are ‘two elephants mating’ (Paul Kedrosky) and ‘Tying the Titanic to the iceberg’ (Andy Baio).The problem that YHOO has faced, with few exceptions (Flickr, MyBlogLog, Upcoming), for at least a couple of years is that YHOO needs to pander to the lowest common denominator. YHOO needs to make 800 million people come back to their pages on a regular basis.  Not an easy task, but it is hard to release services that are unique and innovative that 800 million people will adopt (Twitter is awesome, but only has 800K users).  In other words, YHOO has become the Wal-Mart of the internet.There is nothing wrong with being Wal-Mart mind you.  Wal-Mart is a big, consistently profitable company, but don’t expect the next big thing to come out of it. The company will be too conservative or too slow.In the end, the MSFT acquisition of YHOO will go through.  The integration of 3 different ad plaforms (YHOO, RightMedia & MSN) will take a really long time.  This will frustrate advertisers who will migrate to GOOG (for contextual) and Facebook (for display).   The really good people within YHOO (the people they should have targeted in the first place), will get frustrated with the stock price, the direction of the integration and the idea of working for ‘the man’.If there is a negative impact for my friends, I’ll be bummed.  They are smart, they will land on their feet.  I’ll be more disappointed if the YHOO services that are really interesting, like Flickr, like MyBlogLog, like the stuff coming out of Brickhouse, gets mitigated to the back burner in favor of less exciting services that pander to the masses.

YHOO + MSFT: Did You Hear?

I’ve been thinking about MSFT & YHOO ever since Steve Souders went to Google about a month ago. Not so much in regards to an acquisition, but for what MSFT did to Borland during my first year there back in 1996 (I’m old).

If you aren’t familiar with the history, during the battles between Visual Basic (MSFT) and Delphi (Borland), MSFT recruited away 30 members of the Delphi development team, including Paul Gross and Anders Hejlsberg, essentially killing Delphi and with it, Borland. MSFT threw obscene amounts of money at the Borland Delphi team. Literally, tens of millions of dollars.

Why wouldn’t MSFT & GOOG do the same thing? Why not just identify a few dozen of the key people within the company, throw a ton of money at them and kill YHOO from the inside? Facebook did it to the west coast sales team a few years ago. Why not keep that going?  It would be cheaper than doing an acquisition.

Then I started thinking about the old Bill Gates spam that came out in the early days. Remember that?  If you forwarded an email, Bill Gates would give you a few dollars for each person you sent it to because he was tracking some new email service?

For $45 billion, MSFT just paid about $55 per user for YHOO’s 800 million users. MSFT may have been able to extend an offer to pay key users $100 to migrate their usage to MSN and generate some pre-defined number of page views. They would have still paid out a bunch of money, but it would have been far less than the $45B that they are paying for YHOO and they would have killed YHOO, possibly making them more intimidating to GOOG (maybe). It also would have gotten users on MSN faster than the integration will happen.

Alas, Ballmer didn’t call me for guidance and selfishly announced the acquisition before I could offer my two cents. Two of the more perfect metaphors that I’ve heard are ‘two elephants mating’ (Paul Kedrosky) and ‘Tying the Titanic to the iceberg’ (Andy Baio).

The problem that YHOO has faced, with few exceptions (Flickr, MyBlogLog, Upcoming), for at least a couple of years is that YHOO needs to pander to the lowest common denominator. YHOO needs to make 800 million people come back to their pages on a regular basis.  Not an easy task, but it is hard to release services that are unique and innovative that 800 million people will adopt (Twitter is awesome, but only has 800K users).  In other words, YHOO has become the Wal-Mart of the internet.

There is nothing wrong with being Wal-Mart mind you.  Wal-Mart is a big, consistently profitable company, but don’t expect the next big thing to come out of it. The company will be too conservative or too slow.

In the end, the MSFT acquisition of YHOO will go through.  The integration of 3 different ad plaforms (YHOO, RightMedia & MSN) will take a really long time.  This will frustrate advertisers who will migrate to GOOG (for contextual) and Facebook (for display).   The really good people within YHOO (the people they should have targeted in the first place), will get frustrated with the stock price, the direction of the integration and the idea of working for ‘the man’.

If there is a negative impact for my friends, I’ll be bummed.  They are smart, they will land on their feet.  I’ll be more disappointed if the YHOO services that are really interesting, like Flickr, like MyBlogLog, like the stuff coming out of Brickhouse, gets mitigated to the back burner in favor of less exciting services that pander to the masses.

Microsoft MAX, the Snorks & Clippy

Like a lot of people, I got a link to take part in the semi-mysterious, Microsoft MAX, which at first glance looks like Yahoo! 360, but maybe I am biased.There are a lot of things that I found really odd about this page, but most notably is that the new Microsoft Clippy, the ultra-annoying paper-clip that always popped up at inopportune times to offer stock advice on how to prepare a letter, seems to be back in Snork form.

First, I thought that they did away with Clippy in Windows 98. Secondly, why does MSFT continue to want to give us some dopey little bot that wants to tell us how to do things? What ever happened to the trial and error method of learning. You know, give a man a fish and all that? If you can’t upload a photo, than either a.) you shouldn’t be on a computer or b.) MSFT did a lousy job of building their product. In either case, I shouldn’t have Clippy hogging up bandwidth.The second thing that I thought was odd about this page was this:

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To quote ZeFrank, ‘that’s weird’. Why does the team need to advertise that they are real people excited about building a product? I would hope that they are at least real people. Who does the average Joe thinks develop stuff like this? Have I become so jaded to software development and so out of touch with the average person that they really think that robots are building this stuff? Or has MSFT just developed an image of a place where people are overworked, averagely paid (anymore at least) and churning out less than exciting products over the past 5 years?In fairness to MSFT, I haven’t tried out MAX yet. Hoping to check it out tonight and will have a full report and confirmation that Misha (AKA Clippy v.2.0) is part of the product.

What Will Bill Do Next?

I go away for a couple of weeks and just when I think I didn’t miss anything, I find out that Microsoft is losing one of it’s key employees. That’s right, Robert Scoble is leaving Microsoft to join PodTech. With him announcing that he was leaving, I started drilling down a bit into PodTech. It is a cool looking company for a lot of reasons which I will write about later, but they remind me quite a bit of Broadcast.com. I don’t know much about their CEO, but I hope that he has the charisma or Mark Cuban. The technology industry needs a Web 2.0 Mark Cuban,Oh, yeah, Bill Gates has announced that he is going to leave MSFT in a couple of years, too, in order to focus on his philanthropic foundation. I don’t know about you, but everyone takes a pay cut when they go into non-profit work. How is that guy going to pay the bills with this new job?