Marc Benioff, the voluble CEO of Salesforce, has never been shy about taking potshots at Microsoft. To wit: At TechCrunch Disrupt in September he called the company a “complete disaster” and said the only way to save it was to bring back Bill Gates as CEO, at least for long enough to give him time to push the “reset button.”
Oh, what a difference a few months — and a new Microsoft CEO — can make.
On Thursday Benioff was busy giving the warmest of corporate embraces to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO, as the two companies signed a broad strategic partnership. “I am absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Satya,” Benioff said during a teleconference with reporters and analysts. “I couldn’t be happier with how things have gone.” Benioff also took to Twitter, where he posted smiling photos of him and Nadella side by side looking like BFFs.
Nadella returned the affection. “It’s a pleasure working with you and your team,” he said during the call. “I couldn’t be more pleased that we are partnering across many areas of our business.”
The details of the deal will be important to the enterprise customers of both companies. The companies laid out some of them in a press release, and more specifics are sure to emerge in coming days.
Perhaps more important, the deal is the latest indication that while Nadella is not Gates, he has indeed pushed the reset button at Microsoft (MSFT). Nadella announced the partnership with Salesforce just 36 hours after speaking at an industry conference where, as my colleague Adam Lashinsky noted, he distinguished himself for his candor. Laying out Microsoft challenges, and its strengths, forthrightly, is just one of the many ways in which Nadella is breaking with the past in both style and substance. For some in the industry, including the also-voluble CEO of Box, Aaron Levie, the change couldn’t have come too soon.
Of course, Nadella is not the only one embracing pragmatism. Benioff too seems increasingly willing to bury the hatchet with perennial foes. In June, Salesforce cut a deal with arch-enemy Oracle.
Pragmatism can pay off. Salesforce shares (CRM) were up nearly 2% in after-hours trading following the announcement of its Microsoft alliance.