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Fashionable Dreamforce 2014 with wearable will.i.am

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy October 9, 2014
Summary:
The launch of a wearable by will.i.am at Dreamforce 2014 could be the blockbuster we all await at this year's show.

will.i.am
Will.i.am via AdWeek

Although an apparent footnote in the sense of appearing on stage at 5pm on day three of Dreamforce, I am betting that the unveiling of will.i.am's mystery wearable will be remembered in years to come as the blockbuster announcement of the show. Here's why.

Enterprise software is intensely dull for many people most of the time. It is complicated, expensive, hard to build, often unfriendly to the users who have to get on with it and rarely understood by more than a fraction of those interested in the general 'information technology' category.

It is therefore no surprise that while enterprise software underpins many transactions both in the business to business and business to consumer markets, the enterprise software vendors have never been able to extend their reach much beyond the corporations into which they sell. Having a wearable device as part of the extended portfolio, even via a partner, changes that.

Riding the wearables wave

Wearable devices can take advantage of many pieces of the enterprise software puzzle. Things like analytics (to be announced in detail at Dreamforce,) marketing automation (tick one box for Salesforce), social engagement (tick a Chattering box for Salesforce), sales services (yep, there goes another box to tick for Salesforce), health and wellness applications (now we're into developer land with Force.com.) You see where I'm going? Only this time we're talking at consumer scale. That is an order of magnitude larger than anything Salesforce can currently dream of, even with its enormous reach in all things CRM.

benioff fashion shoes
Benioff's fashion statement - Dreamforce 2012

Add in the fact that Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce, is the undisputed master of ringing the fashion changes in software and you have a potent and potentially heady mix. Why does this matter?

The launch of the Apple Watch demonstrated that technology can enter the consumer space in a more meaningful way than straightforward computing devices and smartphones. The fact Apple launched with a multitude of watchbands alone shows a keen awareness of fashion trends. Moving on, Apple was able to command the attention of the likes of Vogue, a magazine you'd never expect to see associated with any technology company of the kind we usually discuss. Now back to Dreamforce and will.i.am.

In an otherwise largely ignored post on the Salesforce blog, will.i.am gave some hints as to what the weraable device can do:

During a performance at the Connections conference, will.i.am gave a sneak peek of his wearable in action, using it to DJ a set and control the music. Previously he stated that the device will support Bluetooth headphones and apps such as Twitter and Facebook. He also told Benioff that garments, such as jackets, loaded with batteries could keep wearable devices  charged for five days. “How come giant companies aren’t thinking from that perspective?” he asked.

The event at which this took place? A digital marketing gig. And there you have it; Benioff anf will.i.am Bingo - setting the stage. What else do we know about the device. Almost nothing except that it is probably being made in China. The nearest hint for that comes in a reported will.i.am rant, directed at United Airlines when it apparently gave away his first class seat to China:

Fueling the Salesforce growth engine

will.i.am benioff
will.i.am and Marc Benioff - bosom buddies at UCSF benefit concert

I may be wrong in terms of outcomes but my sense is that Salesforce needs something like this as its next big step. Sure, analytics will help cement its position in a number of accounts. That is the natural next step as an incremental follow on to all the other categories in which the company plays. But it is just that - incremental. There comes a point where the mega growth that Salesforce has been reporting runs out and it therefore needs something huge with which to take that next big step.

Jumping into the wearables pool at this time could be just the right thing. It rides a current, not future trend and benefits from the halo effect of the Apple Watch announcement. If nothing else it will firmly signal the direction in which boring old enterprise software needs to go in order to be truly cool, fashionable and sexy.

One indicator will come in anything the company says about the extent to which it is invested in will.ia.m's venture. While the musician's estimated net worth is hardly shabby at $75 million, developing something like this for a mass market takes a lot of money.  As always in these matters we will have to see what the reality holds.

Disclosure: Salesforce is a premier partner at time of writing.

 

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