A bit before 9am, the doors opened and we were all hit with lots of music, lights and fanfare. This is my first Dreamforce and I was not left disappointed. It’s quite a show.
The keynote was broken into 3 primary parts:
- Company Positioning
- Winter ’07 Preview
Marc Benioff started off talking about the Consumer Web and the move to the Business Web. Because of the proven technology and innovation by companies like Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo and Amazon, Salesforce is in a position to deliver their service and make the enhancements to it that they are announcing today. This part of the presentation did not produce too much news for me, as it was a bit of a repeat of other presentations Marc has delivered recently, but it did help set the stage for the rest of the presentation and I’m sure it was new material for most of the attendees. Some of the interesting things I took away from this section were:
- Salesforce’s 501,000+ subscribers are paying subscribers only. This number does not include developer accounts, non-profit accounts or trial versions.
- Salesforce’s service performed 3.1 billion transactions in Q2, 45% of which were through the API.
Now we start getting to the fun stuff. George Hu, the CMO, did an excellent presentation on the upcoming release. Some of the key points were:
- Business Web Desktop (the “Console” tab) – This is a new AJAX based UI that allows for a lot of interaction on 1 page. This is the #1 voted for item on the Idea Exchange.
- Calendar Re-Write: The Calendar was completely re-written and adds a lot of AJAX functionality to improve usability such as the ability to hover over an entry to see its details rather than having to click into it.
- Reminders: I know my clients are applauding this one. Like in Outlook, you can be reminded of items on your calendar.
- Collapsible Sidebar: Show/Hide the sidebar with a single-click to increase the amount of screen real-estate you have.
- Related List Hovers: No longer do you need to scroll down the page to see Related records. A list of related objects will be above the
record, allowing you to view all the related records right there. If the Show More link appears, the additional items will be shown in the same hover window.
- Embedded Objects: Also, referred to as “Inline S-Controls”. The demonstration showed a Yahoo Map embedded on an Account page, a Writely document embedded in a Candidate custom object of a recruiting application to show the person’s resume, a timeline widget that shows the interaction history with an Account. Basically, you can embed an S-Control into a Page Layout and have it render inside the layout.
- Approvals via Workflow: The approvals engine has been greatly enhanced so you can add an Approval processes to any object, even custom ones. Approval processes can be invoked via Workflow, so you could have different processes for different criteria.
- Salesforce for Google Adwords was emphasized. Read my review of the product prior to it being acquired by Salesforce. It allows you to manage your Google AdWords campaigns within Salesforce and track from Ad keyword to Lead to Opportunity. It’s top notch.
Service & Support
- Salesforce is releasing 16 pre-built CTI connectors. These will work with all major phone systems.
- Integrated Softphone technology: Screen pops, Hold / Transfer / Conference calls, log call notes from the screen pop screen and have them saved as Activity records automatically.
Marc touched briefly on PRM and then Michael Dell gave a quick talk about how the entire Apex platform is running on Dell Servers. Marc then stressed the importance of partners. They have a PRM offer now:
Buy 2 PRM licenses and get the 3rd free.
Marc and Parker Harris presented this piece. This section focused on moving the platform capabilities from configuration (and light customization) to advanced customization.
“What if there was a C++/.NET/Java for On-Demand Applications?”
There is. “APEX – The World’s first multi-tenant programming language”
APEX lets you write and run code on Salesforce servers.
Apex is planned for a beta release in Q1 of 2007. You program in a Java-esque language and all of it is compiled/hosted on Salesforce.com hardware. An Eclipse plug-in will be available to give you a nice IDE. Apex will allow you to call code you wrote as a web service, invoke it via an S-Control or invoke it based upon a user actions such as a button click. It’s purpose is to manipulate the data in the database. And it’ll be FAST because they are compiling it on their servers and it’ll be running in their data center. There is some overlap between what the AJAX toolkit can do and what APEX can do. I’ll get into my understanding of the differences later. I need a few more sessions under my belt to be sure I understand it completely.
An example scenario was given to help us get the idea of what you could do with APEX:
Maybe you want to re-write the Lead Convert process to do something completely different. Now you can (example above). AJAX toolkit will handle the UI interaction and can call APEX functions to do the heavy lifting on the data side.
There’s lots more to talk about and I didn’t even cover all the presentations that were part of the keynote. I am sure Mark at Salesforcewatch.com will take care of those details. I’m going to try and focus on the things that are most relevant to developers and for providing Salesforce solutions.