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November 2, 2008 3:59 PM CEO Mark Benioff says his company is ahead of Microsoft on cloud computing

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The San Francisco Chronicle published an interesting interview with CEO Mark Benioff on Sunday. When asked about Microsoft's cloud computing efforts and its new Windows Azure platform, detailed last week, Benioff did not seem threatened. (It doesn't appear if they asked him for his reaction to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's plans to declare Monday, Nov. 2, "Microsoft Innovation Day" in the city. That also happens to be the first day of Salesforce's Dreamforce conference.)

Here's an excerpt from the Chronicle's interview with one of the early proponents of "software as a service" and cloud computing:

Q: ... Microsoft said it's moving into cloud computing. Is this validation of your philosophy? And is that good news or bad news for you when you see the software industry moving toward the on-demand model or the Internet model?

Benioff: Well, I'll tell you the same thing I tell you every year, it's probably very boring, which is that it's the end of software and that the entire technology industry and specifically the software industry needs to move from that traditional model of packaged software to this model of software delivered through the Internet.

And we've really seen that bifurcate into two areas. One is applications - we've spent a lot of time talking about that - and the other area which is very exciting is platforms.

(What) Microsoft said is that they think operating systems are going to move off of the desktop and off of servers and into the cloud. And that is something we've been saying now for a couple years. But that's not a future thing like it is for Microsoft, it's a present. We have lots and lots of both customers as well as independent software vendors who are betting their businesses based on our new Internet operating system.

And the thing that I think that's most interesting is, I don't even have to do the hard selling anymore, now I have Microsoft telling people that the future of the operating system is delivered in the cloud, not on their desktop. How fantastic is that for us?

Q: How are they going to do it? It's certainly not their history. Can you speak directly to what you think of their announcement?

Benioff: Well, I think that the benefit to Microsoft in the past paradigm is that they were able to create and control a monopoly on the PC. And they used various strategies to achieve that dominance. In this new world, no one company will have dominance like that; there'll be many players, many applications players and many platform players. And when we get to Dreamforce on Monday, you'll see that we have the major Internet companies there aligning with us.

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