Microsoft and Salesforce.com to link wares in global partnership

The companies will integrate Microsoft's Windows and Office with Salesforce.com's CRM software

Microsoft and Salesforce.com have become corporate buddies, pledging to integrate their flagship products in what they're calling a "global, strategic partnership."

The agreement calls for Salesforce.com's CRM (customer-relationship-management) software to be integrated with Microsoft's Windows OS, Azure cloud computing platform and Office suite, the companies said Thursday.

Although Microsoft has its own competing Dynamics CRM software, the deal comes in response to intense demand from customers who use Salesforce and Microsoft products and want them to work better together, the CEOs of both companies said during a press conference.

"This partnership is about helping customers extract more value from our technology. It gives them access to the services they need to be productive, to collaborate, to market, to sell, wherever they work," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "At Microsoft, we're focused on building the best productivity experiences and cloud platforms and on enabling our customers to thrive in a mobile-first, cloud-first world."

Meanwhile, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said, "customers need and they want us to work together. They want this partnership badly. They want to be able to work with Office 365, with Excel, with Outlook, with all of Microsoft's apps and to be able to work with Salesforce and for us to work together for our customers' benefits."

Nadella added that Microsoft will pursue other partnerships like this one that boost Microsoft platforms through integration with third-party products and make life easier for common customers. "With that spirit in mind, I want to approach partnerships that add value to entire industry," he said.

Specifically, the companies plan to release Salesforce1 for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1, a product that the companies said will let customers access Salesforce from their Windows devices. A preview is slated for the fall, with general availability expected next year.

They also plan to roll out Salesforce for Office 365, which will let customers access, share and edit Office documents from within Salesforce and on Salesforce1 via Office Mobile, Office for iPad and Office 365.

Salesforce for Office 365 also will let customers use OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online as storage repositories for Salesforce, as well as use Salesforce and Outlook together with a new app. It will also be possible with this product to visualize and analyze Salesforce data using Excel and Power BI.

The agreement raises immediate questions about the impact it could have on Microsoft's own Dynamics CRM product, which competes against Salesforce.

Asked about this, Nadella deflected the question, saying that he would only discuss the Salesforce partnership.

Benioff chimed in and was a bit more candid, stating that the partnership was about each company's respective core revenue-generating products: Salesforce's CRM software and Microsoft's Windows and Office. The comment implied Microsoft wants to use the partnership to build up the Windows and Office franchises even if it doesn't benefit Dynamics CRM.

Benioff also said that he had wanted for a long time to have a stronger relationship with Microsoft. He credited recent developments such as Nadella's CEO appointment and Microsoft's embrace of cloud computing with paving the way for the partnership. Benioff, known for his outspokenness, has been openly critical of Microsoft in the past.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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