Salesforce just stole Oracle's thunder on the eve of its huge annual conference

marc benioffRobert Galbraith/Reuters

Salesforce has unveiled Einstein, a platform upgrade that adds artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to its core products - just two hours before Oracle's big annual event OpenWorld is set to kick off.

As Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff previously hinted, Einstein is an AI wrapper around Salesforce's existing products that collects and analyzes all the data stored in Salesforce to push out recommendations, so the user can close deals faster or build a larger group of leads.

For example, salespeople using Sales Cloud will get a list of leads on the side based on "Lead Score," a number representing who's more likely to buy your product. It also gives suggestions on when to make a follow up call or alerts when a contact has been unresponsive for a long time.

"The great thing about machine learning is you can actually measure it. This is about democratizing AI," Salesforce's GM of Einstein John Ball said at a press briefing held last week. "It's all about making the user smarter."

To build Einstein, Salesforce spent about $650 million acquiring dozens of startups in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space over the past two years. That's helped the company quietly put together an army of 175 data scientists, and today, it unveiled the launch of a new research lab called Salesforce Research as well.

Sales Cloud Einstein   Predictive Lead Scoring

Salesforce vs. Oracle

Einstein fundamentally changes the Salesforce user experience. It will be available across all seven of Salesforce's products, mostly at an additional charge, and app developers will also be able to build apps using some of Einstein's AI capabilities.

Perhaps that explains why Salesforce decided to unveil Einstein on Sunday, just two hours before Oracle's cofounder Larry Ellison is scheduled to do a keynote at OpenWorld, zapping some of the excitement around Oracle's big annual event. Salesforce has typically rolled out its new products closer to its own annual conference, Dreamforce, which is taking place in early October this year.

Although Salesforce is the clear leader in the cloud business software space, Oracle has been doubling down on growing its cloud business lately. In its earnings last week, Oracle's cloud revenue exceeded expectations, as the company raised its guidance as well. It'll be interesting to see what new AI features Oracle rolls out at OpenWorld as the company's also been touting its own AI capabilities lately.

Benioff says he's not taking Oracle's cloud efforts too seriously, telling Business Insider that Oracle's still "scrambling" to grow its cloud business.

Ellison, meanwhile, took a direct shot at Salesforce in June, saying Oracle could become the first cloud company to get to $10 billion in annual revenue, a goal Benioff has made public many years ago.

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