Marc Benioff's not so welcome at OpenWorld so Larry Ellison owes him a million dollars. But the PR price Oracle will pay will be much higher...
For the last two years, there’s been a cuckoo in the nest at Oracle OpenWorld – a rather noisy, headline-grabbing cuckoo at that in the form of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
Much to the amusement of onlookers, Salesforce.com has hosted a one hour ‘fringe event’ at the main Oracle conference to showcase its own vision of the Cloud since Oracle OpenWorld in 2009. “We come in peace,” protested Benioff jokingly last year, before berating Oracle for supposedly suggesting that Cloud comes in "a big metal box with an X on the front".
Offically Oracle's tolerance of an upstart rival parking its tanks on its lawn demonstrated the bigger vendor's tolerance. But the long lines of Oracle delegates waiting around the block in the pouring rain to get into the Salesforce.com session told a story that at least one senior executive in the Oracle camp privately admitted to finding irritating.
That irritation seems to have spread. While Benioff was due to host his third ‘keynote’ later today at 10am in San Francisco’s Novellus theatre, the session was abruptly cancelled by Oracle yesterday.
"Oracle just cancelled my keynote tomorrow,” announced Benioff. “But the show must go on! Everyone is welcome to join me at Ame Restaurant tomorrow to hear about the social enterprise. Sorry Larry, the Cloud can't be stopped."
For its part, Oracle insisted that all it had done was shift the session – albeit to a ‘graveyard slot'. A spokesman said: "Due to the overwhelming attendance at Oracle OpenWorld we had to make several session changes. The Salesforce.com Executive Solution Session was moved to Thursday at 8:00am in the Novellus Theatre."
Wednesday is generally regarded as the last main day of OpenWorld, Ellison’s closing keynote address is that afternoon while the show's massive free party for conference delegates is Wednesday evening – guaranteeing a lot of very sore heads on Thursday morning.
Benioff seized on the last minute move by Oracle as a proof point that Salesforce.com is under Oracle’s skin. He said: “This is the best possible outcome. It’s free publicity, and it is clear that Oracle is threatened by us…This is the story everyone will be talking about. We’re just talking about what we can do. Maybe the first slide will be ‘The Top Ten Reasons Why I’m Not Onstage.’ ”
He also suggested that the poor reception to Ellison’s opening keynote
on Sunday might have played a part in the decision. “The keynote was panned in the blogs and in the on Twittersphere,” he said. “There was concern that we would put on a better presentation. You don’t have somebody over to your house to tell better jokes than you.”
The decision will cost Oracle $1 million – the sponsorship fee paid by Salesforce.com to attend OpenWorld. For Benioff, the PR boost he'll get and the marketing mileage from this will be worth every cent. One Salesforce.com staffer quipped: "The good thing about the Cloud, it moves on a dime! Pretty hard to move a box!"