Salesforce's Marc Benioff tries to out-Oracle Larry Ellison

Salesforce.com's CEO preached the 'Internet of customers' at a Dreamforce extravaganza sure to stir Oracle's ire and envy

Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference was a smashing success this week, particularly if its aim was to make a bigger splash than Oracle OpenWorld -- and tick off Larry Ellison in the process.

While Salesforce's claim of 120,000 attendees sounds a tad high -- a nice neat number exactly double the estimated attendance at OpenWorld in September -- Diginomica saluted the show for featuring "apparently the largest inflatable structure [seen here] ever commissioned in North America," a structure that Mad Money's Jim Cramer likened to a football stadium.

In last year's Dreamforce keynote, CEO Marc Benioff drove home the point that "business is social." Fast-forward a year: Social is out and Benioff's pitch, er, keynote was all about the "Internet of customers."

The Internet is full of customers -- who knew? -- and Salesforce has just the platform to help companies reach out and grab 'em: Salesforce1, a single platform to rule them all. Salesforce1 "unifies many of the disparate pieces across [Salesforce.com's] empire via a platform ... meant to allow the rapid creation of apps that can work across Salesforce's sales, service, and marketing apps, as well as on top of its Force.com, Heroku, and ExactTarget Fuel platforms, all at the same time," writes InfoWorld's Serdar Yegulalp. The company claims the platform has 10 times as many APIs as before and targets a broader set of application types.

In fact, the new mobile application in Salesforce1 is so powerful that Benioff claimed he is able to run the entire company using only his phone.

Another bit of hyperbole, perhaps? In a buzz-deflating bit of British journalism, The Register groused, "Benioff's speeches, and those of his lieutenants, are punctuated by the lobotomized cheering of Salesforce's acolytes, who are scattered through the keynote hall to give the impression of optimism where there are hangovers, and of enthusiasm where there are the Valium-stares of jaded execs and the cynical scowls of dyspeptic hacks."

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