Speaking on the panel "Cloud: The Apps" on Thursday at Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Salesforce.com's CEO Marc Benioff and Google's Enterprise unit president Dave Girouard displayed a "bring it on" attitude towards their larger rivals' aspirations in the market for SaaS ((software as a service).
Asked by moderator Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media, for his opinion about dismissive comments Oracle CEO Larry Ellison made recently about SaaS as little more than an empty buzzword, Benioff quoted ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War.
"'When weak, feign strength.' That's the right approach for him. [But it's not] the right approach for these companies that are strong and developing and have tremendous organic growth," Benioff said, referring to his company, partner Google and the other two represented on the panel, VMware and Adobe. "We've embraced these new technologies."
But Benioff wasn't finished, and a few minutes later hit out again at his former boss Ellison, saying that the SaaS approach can't be compared with "mature, dying models like Oracle and SAP, which is maybe already dead."
Girouard also had choice words for traditional enterprise software vendors, saying that they haven't learned from the successes of Web-based software for consumers, and are thus failing to meet the expectations of those same consumers when they go to work.
"There's an amazing disconnect between the innovation and user experiences delivered in the consumer world and the stagnant, unenlightened world of enterprise computing that puts the user experience far in the background and focuses on business process," he said.
The modus operandi of Google's Enterprise unit is to adapt the company's consumer Web applications for the enterprise market, so that their ease of use and friendly interfaces carries over to the workplace, thus meshing the best of both worlds, he said.
Girouard also said he welcomed Microsoft's recent announcements of its SaaS strategy, including its Azure Web application development platform and Web-hosted version of Office. Since the introduction of the Google Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite, Girouard has said that judging it against Microsoft Office is a faulty "apples to oranges" comparison.
When Microsoft releases Web Applications for Office, then it will be possible to measure it against Google Apps. "And our apples will taste better," Girouard said.