Microsoft, Salesforce Unveil Cloud-Computing Partnership

Big 5

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Inc. (CRM) agreed to make some of their business-software products work better together, signaling a thaw between two longtime rivals.

Salesforce’s customer-management programs will become available for Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone operating systems, and will work with Office 365 online productivity software, the companies said in a statement today.

The agreement marks a shift in what has sometimes been a fractious relationship. In 2010, Microsoft sued Salesforce for patent infringement, setting off a countersuit before the companies settled later that year. Microsoft in 2005 also announced plans to “give Salesforce a very effective run for their money” with a competing product and in 2010 ran an anti-Salesforce ad campaign with the tagline “Don’t Get Forced.”

Under new Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has been looking to bolster its Internet-based cloud software and corporate programs. Software makers are looking for more ways to let applications, even from rivals, work together as customers seek to use multiple products and share information.

“This announcement is really about putting our customers first,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said on a conference call.

Terms of the accord weren’t disclosed. Microsoft and San Francisco-based Salesforce both also agreed to use some of each other’s programs, including expanding Salesforce’s use of Microsoft’s database and Azure cloud software.

Developing Apps

Microsoft has been asking Salesforce to deliver apps for Windows and Windows Phone for at least a year. Kendall Collins, an executive vice president at Salesforce, said in a 2013 interview that Microsoft had talked to Benioff about developing apps for the products. At the time, the company wasn’t interested because it didn’t think there was enough customer demand, though Collins said Salesforce would monitor the situation.

Benioff cited Nadella’s ascent to the CEO job for giving him an opportunity to improve Salesforce’s relationship with Microsoft, a company he referred to as the “evil empire” just a few years ago.