The official launch of Windows 8 is only a week away, but Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff won't be making the upgrade, and he doesn't think most enterprise CIOs will, either.
"Windows is irrelevant," Benioff said, speaking at a press Q&A session at Salesforce's Cloudforce event in New York on Friday.
Benioff explained that the rise of cloud computing and the bring your own device (BYOD) model means CIOs have more choices today than they did even 36 months ago, and that as a result, Windows 8 won't be considered a mandatory upgrade the way previous versions of Windows were.
"The common phrase was, 'the Windows 7 upgrade cycle,'" Benioff said. "You're not going to hear about 'the Windows 8 upgrade cycle.' I think it's the end of Windows."
According to the Salesforce CEO, Windows is no longer a critical part of the computing environment because PCs themselves are becoming obsolete. Instead, he said, customers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets as their primary computing devices, and that trend will only continue as the wireless networking technology improves.
"I think this next generation of wireless networking with LTE is going to really disintermediate the need for WANs and LANs," Benioff said. "My LTE in San Francisco is fantastic. I don't even put on Wi-Fi. I don't need it."
Benioff said that as customers switch to mobile devices for their personal use, they will put increasing pressure on CIOs to allow them to use the same devices in the workplace. As a result, CIOs will have to choose whether to invest in another Windows upgrade or to explore other models, he said, adding, "They did not have that choice with Windows 7."
"I don't think that that's a big, aggressive statement against Microsoft, by the way," the Salesforce CEO explained. "I just think that it's the reality of today's computing environment."
Of course, he would. Salesforce.com is one of the leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing vendors, and at the company's Dreamforce 2012 conference in September it introduced both a new mobile sales application and its Salesforce Touch development platform for mobile apps.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has been touting its latest operating systems as being designed to run across a variety of devices in a wide range of form factors. Windows 8's cut-down baby brother, Windows RT, runs on devices based on the ARM CPU architecture, variants of which power most of today's smartphones and tablets.
As for Benioff, he concluded his comments by admitting that although he believes Windows is doomed, just maybe its demise wouldn't happen all at once, and not on October 26.
"We're not completely there," he said. "That isn't reality. Everything is not heterogeneous client and everything is not LTE and everything is not cloud, but I think that's where we're going.
"And I don't know how long it's going to take to get there – it's going to take more visionary people than me to tell you when exactly that's going to happen – but we're on a train and we're not getting off of it. It's an exciting train, and we're going to this great new place in our industry. That's the real excitement of what's happening." ®