By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Salesforce.com Inc unveiled on Wednesday a new software suite that reflects the company's aggressive push into fields like marketing and human resources as it battles heightened competition from rivals.
CEO and founder Marc Benioff announced the new products at the company's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, promising to bring about a "social revolution" to how large companies use software to manage their business.
One of Salesforce's new offerings, dubbed Marketing Cloud, helps businesses keep track of Facebook and Twitter chatter about their brand, and also manages social media posts and calculates the reach of that content.
Marketing Cloud - a product of Salesforce's closely watched, $689 million acquisition of Buddy Media in June - represents Salesforce's newest attempt to bring consumer social media features into business and industrial settings.
"Are you and your company going through a social revolution? We see your customers and your employees and your partners are all connected," Benioff told the audience at Dreamforce, one of the largest conferences on the tech calendar with more than 90,000 registered attendees this year.
Salesforce's new product line is a departure for a company founded in 1999 to provide online software that managed the sales process. Under Benioff, the company has grown rapidly and, at $157.98 a share, trades at one of the highest price-to-earnings multiples among tech stocks.
But in recent years Salesforce has broached new markets like social media marketing in order to sustain growth amid fierce competition from some of the biggest names in enterprise computing, like SAP and Oracle.
On Wednesday Salesforce also announced Work.com, a human resources management software offering as well as Chatterbox, a new file-sharing tool that will pit Salesforce against the likes of Google Drive, and storage startups Box.net and Dropbox.
Salesforce last month posted a 34 percent jump in quarterly revenue but cut its earnings forecast as analysts warned that a price war with rivals like Oracle, which has also made splashy social media-related acquisitions, could eat into Salesforce's margins.
The competitors are scrapping for slices of a large and growing pie: Software-as-a-service industry has grown to $14.4 billion worldwide in 2012, according to a Gartner report this week. The infrastructure-as-a-service market, which includes the hotly growing cloud storage sector, grew 45 percent in the last year alone, Gartner said.
Even as consumer social media appeared tarnished by Facebook's sputtering initial public offering, social media analytics and marketing companies that cater to businesses have found themselves involved in some of the hottest tech deal activity in recent months.
Before Salesforce swooped on Buddy Media, Oracle bought social media marketing company Vitrue for $300 million. In August, Google announced it would buy Buddy Media competitor Wildfire for $350 million. Microsoft Inc paid $1.2 billion in July to buy social networking company Yammer Inc.
"There's been close to a couple billion dollars being spent in this space by the top software companies in the world, but I don't think we're done yet," said Ragy Thomas, CEO of Spinklr, a social media management company.
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)