New best friends Microsoft and Salesforce cuddle up closer

Sometimes the fact that two companies get up on stage together is more important than what they say. Today is a good example of that.

man holding pen drawing a heartbeat and red heart
Credit: Thinkstock

In a couple of hours the leaders of two of the most important technology companies in the world, Microsoft and Salesforce, will get up on stage together and share a metaphorical (and, perhaps, a literal) man-hug. Anyone who has been watching the space for a while will know that the very thought of these two coming together would have been pure fiction only a few short years ago — the companies were fierce rivals.

But time, and leadership changes, have moved things on. Microsoft's current CEO, Satya Nadella, is roundly seen as a far more pragmatic and realistic leader, more ready to embrace the complexity of Microsoft's future than its previous leader, Steve Ballmer. And Salesforce's Marc Benioff has himself got a large dose of pragmatism as the old ways (which pretty much said that any legacy vendor was a dinosaur or had little relevance) are replaced by an acceptance of the heterogeneity of modern enterprise IT.

Indeed, very recently there was much talk about Microsoft's move to acquire Salesforce. That deal never happened, and many observers suggest it was because Nadella wasn't prepared to pay the price that Benioff wanted. But acquisitions aside, the two would seem to be newly found best friends forever.

But those expecting massive product news on stage at Dreamforce today (disclosure: Salesforce covered my travel and expenses to attend the event and is, at the time of writing, a client of Diversity Analysis) will be in for a disappointment. The product stuff is somewhat nebulous and consists of some wavy promises for future development. The essence of the dual keynote is, however, far more important, in my view. For those who want to focus on the announcements, however, the two companies are planning a host of future integrations including:

  • Skype for Business Integration with Salesforce Lightning Experience (planned for introduction in the second half of 2016)
  • OneNote Integration with Salesforce Lightning Experience (planned for preview in the second half of 2016)
  • Salesforce Integration with Office Graph and Office Delve (planned for availability in the second half of 2016)
  • Salesforce1 Mobile App for Windows 10 (planned for availability in the second half of 2016)

As I said, nothing massively substantial in there in terms of product news — a vague commitment that some stuff might ship in a year or so, but beyond that, not much. But the real news here is that the two companies, and their leaders, would seem to be growing ever closer. Both organizations have matured in their view of what modern enterprise IT should look like — no longer is it homogeneous and delivered from one vendor only; rather, it is an amalgam of solutions from a variety of different vendors. By getting on stage and announcing that the cold war between their respective organizations is well and truly over, Nadella and Benioff give us a taste of what a new, more collaborative technology landscape can look like. Indeed, both men offered soundbites that indicate the closeness of their joint futures:

“Customer success is at the heart of everything we do at Salesforce, including our partnership with Microsoft,” said Benioff. “Our collaboration has been so successful, now we’re doubling down and delivering even more innovation that will help our mutual customers be more productive and connect with their customers in a whole new way."

"Furthering our mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, is the motivating force behind our partnership with Salesforce,” said  Nadella. “As a platform and productivity company, we are focused on bringing together the best of Microsoft Azure, Office and Windows with partners like Salesforce to empower our mutual customers to network, collaborate, communicate and discover information in more effective ways.”

And that's worth any number of product announcements in my opinion.

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