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Archive for November, 2010

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Things don’t replace things…

Far too often the media a focused on a “winner takes all” mentality – it drives great headlines, like “iPhone killer”, but seldom reflects reality. As David Pogue says when reflecting on 10 years of writing the column:

Things don’t replace things; they just splinter. I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to keep hearing pundits say that some product is the “iPhone killer” or the “Kindle killer.” Listen, dudes: the history of consumer tech is branching, not replacing.

TV was supposed to kill radio. The DVD was supposed to kill the Cineplex. Instant coffee was supposed to replace fresh-brewed.

But here’s the thing: it never happens. You want to know what the future holds? O.K., here you go: there will be both iPhones and Android phones. There will be both satellite radio and AM/FM. There will be both printed books and e-books. Things don’t replace things; they just add on.

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Great Story…

On Dell’s modular data centers

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How A Laptop Shopper Shops

Worth a scan.

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The Transparent Enterprise

Allows information to flow freely. Social apps are the transparency engines of the modern enterprise. That’s why apps like Chatter matter.

The real threat might come from below, as Benioff knows well. Upstarts Yammer and Jive Software are selling similar social networking tools for businesses. In only two years Yammer has lined up 1.5 million members, entirely by word of mouth. That’s three-quarters as many people as Salesforce has using its software, though there’s one, big difference: Anyone with a corporate e-mail address can sign up for Yammer, free, and connect with others in the same company. But if your IT or legal departments are concerned about having to archive those communications or beef up security, Yammer charges up to $5 a month per member; only 15% pay. But they include big names such as Pitney Bowes, Nationwide and AMD. "Salesforce will be a tab inside Yammer," boasts cofounder David Sacks.

Salesforce customers seem divided. "Chatter lets me see the whole, unvarnished picture," says Michael Dell. "It has dramatically increased my knowledge of what’s going on here." One big Salesforce customer is more hesitant. "Does every CEO really want to give every one of his employees that much visibility inside?" he asks. "It could backfire. There’s a fear of that rogue employee who uses the system to embarrass the company."

Benioff, of course, doesn’t view the world that way. "Salesforce is a culture of no secrets, and that includes me," he says. He believes transparency keeps his company in synch with customers and is one way to constantly poke the status quo. Using Chatter, he publishes his professional goals each quarter and expects others to do the same. Compensation is in part based on reaching those goals. He recently asked his nearly 5,000 Facebook friends to vote on two competing Salesforce advertisement mock-ups; theirs was the final call. Before Dreamforce, his big annual conference in December, Benioff spends weeks laboring over his speech, but the real test is when he has ten or so customers come in to critique a rehearsal over pizza and soda.

"Nothing is sacred," says Parker Harris, his buddy, cofounder and head of Salesforce technology. Case in point: The two clashed over Chatter, with Harris insisting it was merely a feature to tuck inside the core sales offering. On a flight back from a sales event in Las Vegas last year Harris showed Benioff an early version of the app. Benioff said it wasn’t enough, and Harris explained that other projects, including forecasting and calendar tools already in the works, would suffer. Benioff’s response: "Everything can’t be important."

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Transparency vs. Privacy

I once worked for a CEO that said, “You have no privacy, get over it”. I doubted the statement then as much as I do now. His point was that the Internet was making all our lives public and that we should get over it. Implicit in it was the notion that we should just give up on the idea of privacy. Not something I think most people are willing to do.

One of his execs, Eric Schmidt, later went on to become CEO of Google and hit out with his own, equally brazen comment on privacy, "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place." Here, we should give up on privacy because, subjugating ourselves to a common set of standards – what I think is ok is ok because it meets your standard of ok – means we should have nothing to hide.

That’s a harder rule to live by that it seems. Implicit in it is the idea of total, 100% transparency. Either passively transparent – where we make everything available to anyone that wants it without promoting it. Or proactively so, promoting the content.

If the reporting is true, it would appear that neither Google or Schmidt can live by this principle:

”Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced the salary hike in a memo late Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Fortune. The memo was also leaked to Business Insider, which broke the news. Within hours, Google notified its staff that it had terminated the leaker, several sources told CNNMoney. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the issue, or on the memo."

Surely this is exactly the kind of information that a company with shareholders would want to be transparent about. If not for that reason, the recruitment value alone would be worth it. And, if the information is shared with thousands of employees, the assumption that it is, by any standard, private, has surely gone out the window.

At the end of the day, the actions would also seem to undermine a broader principle, “Don’t be evil”, but that’s a whole new conversation…

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