Data Sheet—Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13, 2014, 12:29 PM UTC

Welcome to the new workweek, Data Sheet readers. Tech circles are still digesting Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s ill-advised comments about women’s compensation. Here’s why they could inspire real progress on this issue. Plus, close to 135,000 people will converge on San Francisco this week for a Salesforce strategy update, including plans for a service that could disrupt data analytics. But the 15-year-old company also faces pesky challengers to its core business.


Kmart, Dairy Queen join dubious data-breach list. Law enforcement officials are investigating attacks against the payment systems at select locations during late August and early September. The Secret Service now thinks more than 1,000 U.S. merchants suffered cyber break-ins during the summer. Unlike the well-publicized incidents involving the likes of Target and Home Depot, most of those businesses might not know they were breached. (Plus, another recent victim, J.P. Morgan Chase, spent $250 million on cybersecurity this year. It now plans to double that amount within five years.) New York Times, Wall Street Journal 

Obama: Read my lips, no Internet fast lanes. Along with most consumers and many companies, the President is against the idea of "paid prioritization" on the Internet that would deliver some types of content faster than others (for a fee). The FCC is considering new rules governing access, including a proposal that would treat access more like formal utility services. NYT 

Oracle shareholder scrutiny. A group of major investors believes "insufficient board accountability" and "poorly designed compensation programs" are creating big risks for shareholders. They've shared their concerns in a letter to the SEC calling for changes to Oracle's board nomination process. Fortune


Saleforce's not-so-top-secret big data plan. An anticipated 135,000 people will crowd San Francisco this week for the Dreamforce conference (even more than Oracle managed to draw a few weeks ago). One of founder Marc Benioff's first planned introductions Tuesday is Wave, which will provide ready-made and data analysis and visualization for sales, services and marketing processes. Reports can be viewed with mobile apps, and the service can cull information from Oracle and SAP enterprise applications. ZDNet

Google tests telemedicine. Many people use Internet searches to self-diagnose medical conditions based on symptoms they're seeing or feeling. The company confirmed it is experimenting with a service that would let patients take this one step farther, through video chat consultations with doctors. Engadget

Oracle adds former SAP exec to cloud leadership team. According to a report, Oracle has a new senior vice president of cloud strategy and marketing: it's Shawn Price, who left SAP when Bill McDermott became sole CEO earlier this year. The revelation comes days after it hired former Google and Snapchat engineer Peter Magnusson to architect its cloud technologies. Re/code


Personal banking via Twitter? Mais oui! France's second-biggest bank Groupe BPCE plans to let individuals request money transfers via the social network by using its S-Money service, which already lets them do so with text messages. It's yet another example of how digital payment technologies are transferring financial services. More details are expected later this week. Reuters


Can BlackPhone succeed where BlackBerry failed? Its Android smartphone is secure by default: all emails and text messages are automatically encrypted. You can't download commonplace mobile apps that might spread malware or eavesdrop on conversations, but you can grab ones prescreened for privacy and security. The technology was developed by encrypted communications company Silent Circle and Spanish phone company Geeksphone, and costs about $629 (about what you'd pay for other Android smartphones). TechCrunch

Analyze employee productivity. VoloMetrix just raised another $12 million for "people analytics" technology that uses anonymous, aggregated data gathered from corporate emails and calendars to figure out how employees are spending (or wasting) time. The round led by Split Rock Partners brings total funding to $17 million. Customers include Genentech, Seagate and Symantec.


Once the ultimate disruptor, is Salesforce now ripe for disruption?

As Salesforce shifts its attention to business intelligence and data analytics—a theme that will dominate Dreamforce later this week—rivals are growing more vocal with challenges to its leadership position in customer relationship management (CRM) software.

One would-be rival attacking from the low-end is Zoho, used by more than 9 million small and midsize companies. Signaling the leading-edge of its push into larger businesses, the company last week introduced a service that combines contact management with project management, prospect prioritization, social marketing and a boatload of other applications for $50 per user per month. (The professional edition of the Salesforce CRM service, by comparison, is $65 per user per month.)

A far more vocal contender already earning enterprise credibility is Base, a startup backed with close to $23 million from RRE Ventures, Index Ventures, and The Social+Capital Partnership; and advised by senior executives from HubSpot and LinkedIn.

Just two years ago, Base had barely 100 accounts. Now, there have been more than 250,000 downloads of its highly mobile CRM application. The technology is used by more than 5,000 customers, including sales teams at 3M, General Electric, Merck, NCR, Wells Fargo, Xerox. "Early on, I would speak with VCs and they would kick me out of the room in 10 minutes. One of the nicer things that one of them said is that we were suicidal," said CEO Uzi Shmilovici, when I chatted with him about his company.

Many sales team using Base are buying it outside official technology procurement channels, he admitted. But the company recently signed its first 1,000-seat deal and won a government contract, over both Salesforce and Microsoft.

What differentiates Base's technology so much that Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has met personally with Shmilovici for a better understanding of the product?

Aside from being mobile-centric (easier to update in the field and integrated with existing calendars), it helps managers get involved more quickly at critical junctures in a deal. Plus, they get comprehensive reports that show how individual salespeople are performing against quota and against their colleagues.

“Until now, legacy cloud Sales and CRM products like Salesforce have been accepted as ‘the norm’ by the enterprise market," said Shmilovici, discussing recent upgrades to his product. "However, recent advancements in big data, mobility and real-time computing reveal a need for a new generation of intelligent sales software that offers flexibility, visibility, and real-time functionality. If you’re using outdated technology that cannot adapt to the advanced needs of modern day sales teams, your competition will crush you.”

Is Salesforce ripe for disruption in its core CRM business? Send feedback to


The economics of information. Data analytics technology promises to offer valuable insights into everything from product performance to consumer behavior. But what exactly is the value of these non-physical assets? Supermarket chain Kroger reportedly earns an estimated $100 million annually by selling its customer data. Some economists figure the total worth of emerging data services like those, plus other intellectual property such as trademarks, patents and copyrights at $8 trillion. (That's more than the combined GDP of Germany, France and Italy.) WSJ


Dreamforce: 1,400 sessions about the largest cloud ecosystem. (Oct. 13-16, San Francisco)

Strata/Hadoop World: Big data tools and techniques. (Oct. 15 – 17, New York)

QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Oct. 21 – 23, San Jose, Calif.)

IBM Insight 2014: Big data and analytics. (Oct. 26 – Oct. 30, Las Vegas)

TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)

SIMposium 2014. Tech execs and practioners. (Nov. 2-4, Denver)

AWS re:Invent: The latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)

Gartner Data Center Conference: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)