Dreamforce lacks the drama this year

Ron Miller
Dreamforce lacks the drama this year

Dreamforce took place this week in San Francisco, that magical gathering of over more than 150,000 Salesforce faithful that happens every fall. While I didn't attend in person this time, I was able to get the gist of what was going on through a combination of pre-briefs and live streams.

Of course, nothing can pass for actually seeing how thoroughly Salesforce takes over the area around Moscone Center in San Francisco, blocking off streets, booking every hotel room in the city and taking over restaurants and bars. There's music aplenty, monks teaching mindfulness, workshops and keynotes. In short, it's kind of a circus.

It's also a platform for CEO Marc Benioff and Salesforce to flex its muscles and show Silicon Valley and the world the company's pure economic might. Salesforce is in the process of building Salesforce Tower, another monument to the company's strength in the city.

But just to be sure, you get it, they hold this conference every year. It's not all about showing off, of course. The idea is to get the tens of thousands customers, employees, analyst and journalists together in one place (or at least in the general proximity of one another) and present all the advances the company has made on the vast Salesforce platform that includes sales, marketing and service -- a full service menu of enterprise customer management.

Salesforce takes a special pride in embracing the latest technologies. In past years they announced new initiatives around enterprise social, internet of things and artificial intelligence. In short, they are a company that embraces the cutting edge, but this year lacked that kind of big announcement.

That's not to say that the conference lacked star power. Speakers included Michelle Obama, Ashton Kutcher, Mark Cuban, Laurene Powell Jobs, will.i.am, Diane Greene and Ginni Rometty, to name but few.

Last year, there were rumors flying that Salesforce wanted to buy Twitter, which had people, well twittering about it, but as the rumors grew in fervor, the price went ever higher. Eventually the board got nervous and Benioff and company backed off.

This year lacked that kind of drama as the company announced incremental improvements to their overall product set including a new and simpler way to customize the Einstein AI toolkit called MyEinstein, which gives developers and Salesforce admins more control over how they implement it.

It also made some major updates to Quip, the collaboration tool it bought last year for $750 million. You can insert live apps inside Quip documents that have two-way updating capability. They opened up the ability to build these integrations to third-party developers and announced a Quip version of App Exchange where third parties could distribute the integrations.

The most notable news by far was the alliance the company made with Google Cloud, a move that surely was a swipe at Microsoft. If you doubt it, consider that during a one on one interview with Diane Greene, who runs the Google cloud business, Benioff told Greene, "We have 30,000 users on G Suite, and have for a very long time. Getting off of Microsoft Office was probably one of the best decisions we ever made," Benioff said. Ouch.

It was just two years ago that Benioff welcomed Satya Nadella to the Dreamforce stage in a dramatic appearance. Although Microsoft and Salesforce still have broad integrations across their product sets, this announcement, along with the side swipe on stage from Benioff certainly shows the relationship has cooled.

Regardless, while the company has another half a day left today that includes an appearance by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, the daughters of former president George W. Bush, the conference is winding down.

This afternoon it will wrap up for another year and the tents will be folded, the fake grass will be rolled up, the stages will come down, the monks and the minions will go home, and San Francisco will return to normal.

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