Benioff decides Microsoft is not a ‘disaster’ after all

Remember when Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, called Microsoft a ‘disaster’ last September at Techcrunch, and said that Bill Gates should return as CEO? And then in January this year, at the company’s Salesforce 1 World Tour he continued the theme that Microsoft needs to push ‘the reset button on vision’.

I have to say that I agreed with his January comments when he said them. However, it seems that he and I both agree that Satya Nadella, the new CEO at Microsoft, has been making forays in that direction.

This week, Microsoft and Salesforce have announced a ‘global, strategic partnership’, principally oriented around integration of Salesforce into Office 365, and the rollout of Salesforce1 on Windows and Windows 8.1.

This is an effort on the Microsoft side to promote Office 365 as the core business work context, today, allowing users to ‘access, share, edit and collaborate on Office content from within Salesforce and on Salesforce1 using Office Mobile, Office for iPad and Office 365′, and to connect that to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online as virtual file repositories.

What Nadella was unable to do was convince Benioff to host Salesforce’s CRM platform on Microsoft Azure, which would have been a great support for the cloud computing platform. There was a vestigial support, as Benioff announced in a conference call that it would use Azure for ExactTarget ‘development and testing’, as reported by Mary Jo Foley. Benioff also said Salesforce would continue to use SQL Server as the database for ExactTarget.

This last concession represents the battle between Microsoft and Oracle in the enterprise SQL server market, and is a cascade from Benioff’s praise for Oracle back January when he was slamming Microsoft’s lack of vision. Salesforce is built on Oracle, a relationship that MIcrosoft would love to scramble.

So, Benioff is playing off Microsoft and Oracle, getting license concessions on both sides, I would bet, and offering up verbal support for one or the other database competitor as the occasion warrants. A very clever poker player.

This time, Microsoft is the recipient of Benioff’s good will, although we will have to see what real impact any of this has on Windows, Windows mobile devices, Office 365, SharePoint, or OneDrive sales. Whatever it is, it can’t hurt Microsoft, and at least Benioff isn’t slighting Nadella for lack of vision. At least not this week.

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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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