Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff: End Coming for Windows in Enterprise

10/22/12Follow @jpruth

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analysts during the conference about how that trend, coupled with the momentum he sees in cloud computing, may affect the role of desktop PCs and the Windows operating system in business.

A prior conversation, Benioff said, with a chief information officer who oversees the technology infrastructure for some 300,000 employees proved quite telling. “She told me her primary goal was to get rid of every single PC. She said it’s the end of Windows,” Benioff said. “She has no interest in upgrading to Windows 8.”

Part of this decision, he said, stemmed from the demand for mobile devices in the workplace in relation to PCs. “This CIO wanted to move to a bring-your-own-device architecture,” he said, a strategy he sees being adopted by many companies. “People are bringing their iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. I think soon they’ll be bringing their [Amazon] Kindles.”

A lot of Benioff’s claims, of course, are tied up in the often-entertaining competition between his San Francisco-based company and Microsoft, the massive veteran of business software. But he’s correct that businesses of all kinds are seeing more employees bring their personal computing devices to work, and looking for policies that give them access to their work from virtually any screen.

In fact, Microsoft is positioning Windows 8 as a way to bridge these new realities—as Bill Gates says in this newly released promotional video interview, the newest version of Windows is intended to work with Microsoft’s smartphone software and its new Office software as a seamless, cloud-connected experience.

The growing use of mobile devices may also bring changes to the way companies connect their data networks, Benioff said. Many companies use local area networks to keep employees and data connected, but he sees the next generation of high-bandwidth networks through wireless providers reducing the reliance on in-house servers.

In fact, Benioff said that after Salesforce opened a new office in downtown San Francisco equipped with Wi-Fi, he questioned the necessity for such a network. “My LTE [reception] in San Francisco is fantastic,” Benioff said. “I don’t put on Wi-Fi. I don’t need it.”

As Microsoft prepares to release Window 8 this week, Benioff expects even more overseers of technology to weigh their options. Today’s choices, he said, were not largely available when Windows 7 was released in 2009. As more powerful mobile devices with access to the growing population of cloud-based software hit the market, he believes a wave of change is imminent.

“I think it’s the end of Windows,” he said. “I think Windows 8 is the gambit for every CIO to reconsider what their new device is.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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