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Confirmed: Salesforce partners with 'evil empire' Microsoft

Benioff and Nadella hold hands, weave MicroForce-SalesSoft tapestry

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Salesforce is teaming up with Microsoft, a company Salesforce chief Marc Benioff used to call the "evil empire".

Putting to rest rumors from earlier today, the two companies have announced they are burying the hatchet – and will team up so that Windows users can more easily access Salesforce's tech from within Microsoft's products.

Initially, this means customers of Microsoft's Office 365 will be able to access, share, edit, and collaborate on Office documents from within Salesforce's tech, and use OneDrive for Business and Sharepoints Online as a storage option for Salesforce.

It will also see Salesforce churn out its new "Salesforce1" suite of products for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1 by the start of 2015 so fondlers of Microsoft's mobile devices can more easily use Benioff's tech.

As part of the love-in, Salesforce will start to use far more of Microsoft's "Azure" cloud product, initially for development and testing of its ExactTarget marketing product, Benioff said.

The partnership is a puzzler given that Microsoft competes directly with Salesforce due to its "Dynamics" customer relationship management software. "We both want to grow our revenues so we'll be investing in our core," explained Benioff when asked about this on a conference call discussing the partnership, and implied that Microsoft's core revenues are Windows and Office, while Salesforce's are CRM and Marketing. That might put noses out of joint at Redmond, given Microsoft's renewed push on cloud and software-as-a-service products.

It's also strange because the companies have had disagreements in the past with Salesforce chief Benioff terming Ballmer's Microsoft the "evil empire", and Microsoft launching a "Don't Get Forced" ad campaign against Salesforce in the mid-2000s.

"Relationships are eternal and it's the technology itself which is temporal," mused Benioff when asked about the troubled past with Microsoft. "Today, we're announcing a very important interchange between our technologies. First and foremost, when we acquired ExactTarget we acquired a stronger relationship with Microsoft, and when Satya became the CEO of Microsoft that gave us the opportunity to have an even stronger relationship with Microsoft, and that changed, and today we're making another change."

With a new Microsoft chief executive in the person of Satya Nadella, and a dramatically different market, the companies have been motivated to partner. One reason for this could be Oracle's spate of acquisitions in marketing, human capital management, and CRM – areas that sit at the heart of Salesforce's business model. ®

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