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Q&A With Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff

Benioff chats about the potential of getting acquired by a larger vendor, and explains why he thinks Salesforce.com will be relevant for years to come.
Benioff: I can't comment on that.

InformationWeek: What's the biggest untold story in the software industry?

Benioff: The biggest untold story is we're gong through the biggest renaissance in software. More innovation is happening now than in the last 10 years. Walk around this conference and you'll be amazed at what you see. The future of the software industry is really at this conference.

InformationWeek: Every software vendor seems to have an acquisition strategy these days. What's yours?

Benioff: Extending our core applications and extending our platform with new technologies. One [recent acquisition] was to extend our platform onto mobile devices. Another was to extend our platform onto Google. If you know what your strategy is you'll find some tremendous opportunities. You'll also see a ton of people from SAP and Oracle not wearing name badges [at the conference]. That's really interesting because they're looking around. They feel like they're being left out of the change that's happening, and they're looking around. A lot of people are trying to figure out what's going on in the industry.

InformationWeek: Are you starting to see Workday [an SaaS ERP startup founded by PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield] come up against you in request-for-proposals? Who would you cite as up-and-comers in the area of on-demand software?

Benioff: We're seeing a lot of new companies in RFPs. I don't know that we're seeing Workday, but a lot of new software as a service companies are coming up. These are the ones growing today. If you go to the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road, they're not investing in new client-server software companies.

InformationWeek: So if SaaS becomes generic in five or 10 years, what will make Salesforce.com matter?

Benioff: I think the most important thing is we do it better than anyone else. It's like the motorcar industry. Toyota is No. 1 because they're the most innovative, they're ahead of the curve. They're an innovative, well-run company, and that's how we want to be, too.

InformationWeek: How important is your AppExchange platform to the company's success?

Benioff: Our focus is bifurcated between our applications business and our platform business. Those two things are really important to us. I'm here with a mission, and my mission is to, No. 1, evangelize the SaaS movement as leader of that movement; No. 2 is get people on our platform; and No. 3 is to get people building natively on our application set.