SAN FRANCISCO — It's the city's most richly anticipated tech event.
No, not Apple's glitzy — and largely panned — iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus introduction last Wednesday. The two-hour-plus show, staged at the fabled
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, was short on dramatics and long on time. Nearly everything announced, from new iPhone to iPad Pro and Apple TV upgrades, had been leaked or rumored. About the only suspense involved the identity of the closing act, which turned out to be OneRepublic.
The show that has the
San Francisco Bay Area buzzing is Dreamforce, a creation of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff that begins Tuesday. It's chock full of top-billed bands, executive keynote speakers, celebrities and, this year, a celebrity cruise ship. (The Dreamboat's 1,073 cabins are sold out.)
Some 150,000 are expected to attend the four-day conference this week, which contributed $226 million to the city's economy last year, according to San Francisco Travel.
"If you have to choose one (tech) show a year, it's this one (Dreamforce)," says Esteban Kolsky, founder of thinkJar, an advisory and research think tank focused on customer strategies. "Over the last four to five years, it's become the place to be."
Dreamforce and Apple's annual product unveil in September headline a packed month of activities in Silicon Valley, where companies jockey for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of consumers and businesses. Several notable events, such as the first-ever Tech Inclusion conference, also tackle social issues.
The shifting fortunes of the top two September shows illustrate how cloud computing pioneer Salesforce, not Apple, has captured the zeitgeist of the tech masses when it comes to tech happenings. Think of Dreamforce, now in its 13th year, as a mini-Davos meets
Woodstock, as my colleague Marco della Cava gracefully puts it in his curtain raiser on the event.
A sampling of this year's schedule shows why:
Executives from the defending champions of baseball ( San Francisco Giants) and basketball ( Golden State Warriors); a fireside chat between Benioff and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick; a keynote speech from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; and a panel featuring YouTube CEO Susan Wojcickiand actress Jessica Alba. The 2015 edition of the annual Dreamforce concert? The Killers opening for Foo Fighters.
While Dreamforce increasingly resonates with consumers and corporations, Apple seems to be a victim of its own success, and the heightened expectations of others. How, for instance, can Apple top the runaway success of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the world's most popular smartphone? What is its next big thing — reinventing cars, the
Internet of Things, virtual reality?
For now, it seems to be in stasis, riding the iPhone phenomenon for all it's worth while chasing enterprise sales with a quilt of partnerships with
Cisco Systems and IBM, and the introduction of the new iPad Pro.
Part of the problem may also be perception.
Salesforce is on a revenue roll: Its market cap has tripled to $45 billion since 2010, gaining the attention of several software behemoths, a number of which (Microsoft? Oracle?) might be interested in acquiring the company that Benioff built.