NEW YORK CITY — Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, always game for a little tech trash talk, said that Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system would be “the end of Windows” and that “Windows is irrelevant.”

Benioff, answering questions at a press conference at the Cloudforce show in Manhattan, mostly kept to the script of promoting Salesforce’s cloud services during the Q&A session with reporters and analysts. The main Cloudforce keynote mostly mimicked all the announcements at Dreamforce last month, except for the just-announced addition of 20 social analytics services to its Marketing Cloud.

Veering off-script (or was it?), Benioff talked about Windows 8 in regard to the entire computing market. He first spoke about a conversation he had had with an exec-level Salesforce customer and how this customer said she wouldn’t move her company to Windows 8.


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Then, Benioff turned to his own thoughts on the new Microsoft OS, which launches Oct. 26. He said that people were not having frequent conversations about traditional computers anymore — people are instead talking about which smartphones and tablets they want to buy. He name-checked the iPhone 5 and the Kindle Fire HD as examples.

With that in mind, Windows 8, he noted, was no longer important. He said CIOs had upgraded to Windows 7 because they didn’t have another choice, but now things have changed.

“Windows 8 is the gambit — will [CIOs] upgrade, or will they do something else?” Benioff said. “It’s the end of Windows. … Windows is irrelevant.”

To be fair, Windows 8 will work on desktops, laptops, and laptop/tablet hybrid computers. That flexibility means the OS can help equip all kinds of devices that employees might want or need. Enterprises could adopt Windows 8 tablet hybrids like the Samsung’s ATIV Smart PCs, for example.

And then we’ve got Windows RT, which looks a lot like Windows 8 and runs on ARM-based tablets. Microsoft’s first Surface tablet runs RT and includes a version of Office installed. It looks to like a tool enterprises might take a look at versus Apple’s iPad.

Even with those caveats, Benioff’s words were certainly eye-popping and something that could echo with CEOs and CIOs across the enterprise. As a visionary for cloud computing and cloud-based software, his words carry weight.

Marc Benioff photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

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