Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff shared his vision of the modern enterprise during a question and answer session at the company's Cloudforce conference in New York on Friday, and Microsoft and its Windows 8 operating system weren't in the picture.
Benioff's comments were mostly a recapitulation of the social, mobile, and cloud computing themes Benioff shared at last month's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. But when asked to share his advice to CIOs on spending priorities, Benioff said IT leaders had focused too much on speeds, feeds, and software updates during the last two decades, with the Windows operating system being a big distraction.
"I was with a global CIO at a company that has 300,000 employees recently, and she told me that her primary goal is to get rid of every single PC at that company," Benioff said. "She said it's the end of Windows and that she has no interest in upgrading to Windows 8... and that Windows is the single most severe point of security [risk] in her architecture."
Windows 8 is, of course, set for launch this week. And despite Benioff's predictions, Microsoft reports that pre-sales of Windows 8 came in at almost $800 million, 40% higher than comparable pre-sales for the successful Windows 7 OS.
[ What's driving Windows 8 skepticism? Read Windows 8: Are PC People Out Of Touch?. ]
For Benioff, the new operating system is clearly a symbol of the on-premises computing Salesforce.com is hoping to replace. What would employees use if not company-issued PCs? Benioff extolled the virtues of a bring-your-own-device architecture supporting a diversity of devices including iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and even Kindles."
Even if not every CIO is ready to move the workforce away from PCs, Benioff predicted that the launch of Windows 8 will be nothing like the upgrade cycle that Windows 7 enjoyed, starting in 2009, because CIOs did not have a choice four years ago.
There wasn't such a diversity of devices on operating systems other than Windows, so CIOs weren't asking "is this the right thing to do?," Benioff said. "This time around, the question will be "am I going to Windows 8, or am I going to something else?," said Benioff, pointing to viable alternatives including the mobile-centric Apple and Google ecosystems.
Moving on to the topic of networking, Benioff noted that Salesforce.com is putting the finishing touches on an 800,000-square-foot office building in downtown San Francisco. He said he now wonders why the company bothered to install next-generation networking gear and WiFi.
"My LTE coverage is fantastic, so I don't even put on WiFi because I don't need it," he said. "This new generation of wireless network with LTE is going to disintermediate the need for LANs and WANs." Couple these networks with cloud services and "you don't need a server," he added.
Are CIOs and employees really ready for device diversity, public networks, and an end to desktops and servers? Benioff granted it's not a reality yet, "but that's where we're going," he said. "I don't know how long it's going to take...but we're on a train and we're not getting off because it's exciting and we're going to a great new place in our industry."