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When Microsoft and Salesforce play nice together, it spurns productive features for office users. You might even go as far to call it synergy. But I digress with the buzz-speak. yesterday unveiled Salesforce Files Connect, an application programming interface (API) designed to bridge’s customer relationship management (CRM) system with other cloud file services, beginning with support for Microsoft OneDrive for Business and Microsoft SharePoint. The company says a connector for Google Drive should be available within 2015.

Salesforce Files Connect for SharePoint 2010, 2013, and SharePoint Online users is available immediately. Support for OneDrive for Business is expected to be available in February 2015. Both OneDrive and SharePoint are part of the Microsoft Office 365 Suite.

The basic premise behind Salesforce Files Connect seeks to reduce the time spent looking for and consolidating information spread out over a variety of systems—which according to IDC research, accounts for 36 percent of a knowledge-based employee’s workday. That same study indicates that 61 percent of this same workforce has to access four or more systems for the information they need to perform their job.

Aside from cutting down on wasted office time, there’s an app programming feature as well. Any app built on the Salesforce 1 Platform can incorporate the Salesforce Files Connect API, and in turn adds universal file access and sharing to it. For example, a manufacturer can build a custom app for a reseller, and provide central access to associated files—catalogs, training manuals, promotional collateral—even if those files are scattered across the manufacturer’s repositories.

The API is the latest development to emerge from the Microsoft-Salesforce partnership, first announced in May 2014. Already we have seen a Salesforce 1 app for Windows 8, an array of Salesforce additions for Office, including syncing features for Outlook and SharePoint, and Salesforce integration with Excel. Whereas at one time the two companies thought of each other as competitors in the CRM space, this partnership leverages the natural overlap between a shared base of users. For now, it looks like everyone is winning.

It is easy to recognize the mutually beneficial effects for users and the two companies. Front-end users often utilize both Mircosoft Office and Salesforce for production and CRM respectively, without any real reason to cross functions on either.

It’s with backend services where we will see reemergence of competition between Microsoft and Salesforce sooner than later—not for CRM or cloud production tools, but rather cloud hosting services and enterprise resource planning (ERP) management software.

You will notice that Saleforce syncing and compatibility features have been left out of Azure, Microsoft’s enterprise cloud hosting solution which houses Microsoft Dynamics, the company’s ERP offering announced earlier in December. This is probably a deliberate move—the ERP space is where the old rivals are expected to compete ferociously.

This sets the table for an intensifying cloud-for-business app hosting shootout moving into 2015. Google will be involved as well, with its anticipated January 2015 rollout of Google Drive for Work (renamed from Google Enterprise), lodged in the ERP fray and also hoping to attract users away from Microsoft Office 365. Salesforce will hedge its bets by extending the Salesforce Files Connect API to Google Drive users in the first half of 2015.

Microsoft and Salesforce have locked horns more than once in the recent past. In 2013, the two sides clashed over identity standards integration which saw the two companies nickel-and-diming the other’s users for single sign-on compatibility features. In 2010, Microsoft took Salesforce to court on nine counts on patent infringement, which were settled under undisclosed terms before a trial took place.

For now, Microsoft and Salesforce users will benefit from nice, seamless compatibility features. But do not expect lasting peace and harmony between the two companies. Microsoft and Salesforce make good partners, but are better frenemies.

Microsoft and Salesforce: Partners or Frenemies?
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Microsoft and Salesforce: Partners or Frenemies?
When Microsoft and Salesforce play nice together, it spurns productive features for users--but we expect the old rivals to clash in the ERP space in 2015.
Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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