SAN FRANCISCO -- Marc Benioff has a message for Apple: Stop trying to imitate Steve Jobs.
The Salesforce.com chief executive officer made the comments during an onstage interview Tuesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco with technology blogger and investor Michael Arrington. His comments came on Apple's big day as it was unveiling new iPhones and other sparkling new stuff on its Cupertino, Calif., campus, and looking to restore its flagging growth and image.
"It's like they're trying to pretend Steve Jobs never existed," Benioff said. "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Steve. I think it's appropriate for Apple to acknowledge this on a regular basis."
But, he said, Apple execs should not keep imitating Jobs, including the way he displayed the word "video" on slides before playing a video during a keynote.
"They want to look like Steve and act like Steve," Benioff said. "They need to find themselves and be who they are."
Benioff is a former Apple intern who turned to Steve Jobs as a mentor and friend.
He recalled the memorial service in 2011 at Stanford University to pay tribute to the Apple cofounder. As he was leaving the service that was attended by Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Larry Ellison, Benioff said everyone was handed a brown box.
"I knew that this was a decision he made that everyone was going to get this, so whatever this was, was the last thing he wanted us all to think about," Benioff said.
He got in his car and opened the box. Inside was a copy of Paramahansa Yogananda's book on self realization: "Autobiography of a Yogi."
Benioff said it was Jobs' final message: "Actualize yourself."
"You want to be the next Steve Jobs, then listen to his message," Benioff told techies at the Disrupt conference. "Develop yourself."
He delivered that same message to Apple executives. They must acknowledge Jobs' legacy while being true to themselves, he said.
"They just need to be who they are truly and respect the past but, as Steve would say, project the future," he said. "That's the only path forward for Apple."
He also had advice that he said could save Microsoft that has also lost its way. Bring back Gates as CEO for 36 months to "push the reset button."
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