Benioff's Dreamforce Keynote Is A Sprawling, Socially Conscious Affair

Marc Benioff, with his trademark theatricality on full display, welcomed to the Dreamforce keynote stage on Wednesday a procession of philanthropists, social activists, corporate executives and musicians—as well as a few Salesforce engineering and product managers.

The Salesforce CEO's keynote at his company's mega-conference in San Francisco was chock-full of flair and socially-conscious messaging, but light on information explaining upgrades coming to the CRM leader's technology portfolio.

While some new products were mentioned throughout the keynote, there was no deep dive on any one technology. In lieu of product news, Benioff touted the philanthropic projects that Salesforce, its ecosystem and its charitable partners are engaged in, from inner-city education to the global fight against AIDS to climate change.

[Related: Dreamforce Kicks Off With Emphasis On Salesforce Partner Enablement]

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Musician and activist Will.I.Am—who at one point during the keynote received a medal from Benioff—even told Dreamforce attendees before the CEO took the stage: "This community is the most powerful, most inspirational community on Earth today."

Between pleas for making the world a better place, Benioff and cofounder Parker Harris did preview some functionality of Einstein, discussing how the AI technology will drive the work done by sales agents and infuse intelligence into services, marketing, commerce and all third-party apps.

Benioff described the foray into artificial intelligence as a "new journey" and said technologies like machine learning and deep learning are built into the core of the Salesforce platform and into every app.

A more-thorough exploration into AI infused apps and the Einstein platform will come Thursday.

Benioff briefly introduced Salesforce LiveMessage, a product he described as Conversations-as-a-Platform.

"Customers are going to connect with us on social media apps, messenger apps, they're going to communicate with voice," he said. Every social network "is now a user interface to Salesforce."

He also touched upon Commerce Cloud—a new e-commerce platform with Salesforce's Demandware acquisition at its core, and integrated with Einstein for smarter commerce.

Another reveal on the product front was My Salesforce1, which allows self-branding of apps sold through AppExchange.

Harris, who led Einstein development, said inspiration for the user experience of the AI platform and tools came from the consumer web—the same place Salesforce drew its CRM inspiration at its founding.

Users and partners crave intelligent apps, Harris said. And Salesforce did all the underlying work of hiring hundreds of data scientists who developed data models and software integrations to provide those capabilities.

Partners also got a very brief introduction to the new Salesforce CPQ—a configure, price, quote tool based on the SteelBrick acquisition.

The remainder of the sprawling keynote featured Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of Schneider Electric, talking about making smarter field service apps that benefited the environment; and James Park, the CEO of Fitbit talking about the health benefits of those wearable devices.

Andy Atkins, founder and CEO of CRM Manager, a Salesforce partner based in Philadelphia, Penn., told CRN the keynote left him really interested in learning how soon a fully functional Einstein would be available to his clients.

"Seems like another great application that will change how people use Salesforce," Atkins said.

Atkins was also pleased with the small upgrade allowing texting to merge into Salesforce through the LiveMessage feature, he said.

Atkins added: "Marc never ceases to amaze and with all this additional functionality, $20 billion in revenue is in sight sooner than later."