Acquires Koral: Microsoft, Cisco, Put Up Your Gloves

Apr.11.07 | About:, Inc. (CRM)

Tuesday, (NYSE:CRM) announced the acquisition of an OnDemand Content Management SaaS company, Koral, which is a Web 2.0 spin on a mainstream enterprise software application: Content Management.

I listened to Marc Benioff’s presentation at the Four Seasons Tuesday afternoon. Marc and the CEO of Koral demonstrated some funky functionality, touting Unstructured Data Management as the core problem the acquisition will attempt to solve. As they rightly pointed out, 85% of enterprise content happens to be unstructured data, and in 2006, the content management segment clocked $3.6 Billion in revenues.

Against that backdrop, Koral is an extremely user-friendly ECM system, effectively using tagging, rating a la Digg (”wisdom of the crowds”), sharing a la YouTube, etc. as mechanisms to make unstructured content searchable, findable, usable. They have learned from how the consumer internet industry has rapidly scaled applications by using these techniques, and by focusing on extreme ease of use.

Last year, when I covered SAP’s (NYSE:SAP) Collaboration Strategy, I repeatedly heard Shai Agassi’s famous quote: “When Enterprise 3.0 meets Web 2.0, the game will get really exciting!” Well, Shai has since announced his departure from SAP, leaving that vision without a champion, and focusing his own attention elsewhere, in Cleantech.

Marc Benioff, however, seems to have preserved his freshness and enthusiasm for enterprise applications, disrupting the old order with his “Death of Software” mantra. I really liked what he said yesterday:

Nothing makes us more upset than seeing people buy software that they don’t use. That is why we went after Siebel’s market. Now, we’re about to step into Documentum’s market.

My assessment is that Marc is actually serious about the enormous opportunity that lies in the cusp of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 3.0. He is young enough, internet savvy enough, and still motivated enough, to lead the charge in this direction.

There is a massive battle ready to be fought between Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) over Online Collaboration. My sense is, Benioff is also eying that opportunity, and will acquire other pieces (like Web Conferencing, Project Management, On Demand Office, Contract Management, etc.) to pull together a compelling alternative to Microsoft’s Sharepoint-based ad-hoc collaboration offering, as well as Cisco’s newly acquired Webex-led solution.

Unfortunately for Cisco, in its Webex acquisition, Subrah Iyer, the Webex Founder/CEO, will not feature as a large contributor to the vision going forward. Subrah is very smart, and comprehends the opportunity, including the Extended Enterprise trend. However, having made the amount of money he has made, and having acquired the number of Bentleys he already has as his toys, I simply do not see him being interested in helping Cisco out. He is also not the greatest communicator, most certainly not at par with Benioff, the master evangelist.

On the Microsoft camp, I’m afraid, I just don’t see the visionary who will drive their collaboration strategy to the level of success that they could potentially achieve. They seem to be failing at everything these days!

Thus, I am very excited to see Benioff’s mind at work, and how he is plotting his course through the Enterprise 3.0 disruption.