Yesterday we reported on Microsoft’s decision to integrate LinkedIn with Dynamics 365. The move means the company’s CRM platform now has access to LinkedIn’s unique dataset of 500 million professionals. Speaking to Reuters, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says such integrations are important to challenge Salesforce.

Speaking to Reuters, Nadella says LinkedIn data is integral to the company’s plans for creating business software. The enterprise social network has over 500 million profile information that can be a valuable resource for Microsoft services.

Salesforce is the runaway leader in the sales software market, while Microsoft is fourth-placed. The company lags behind Oracle and SAP and has just 4.3 percent of the market. Satya Nadella wants LinkedIn to be the driving force to push Microsoft’s sales services.

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The data on the social network provides vital information for Microsoft. Nadella has pushed the company down a cloud first path. The CEO says sales and finance are the third cloud of the company behind Azure and Office 365. In other words, this sector is hugely important to the company.

Nadella wants to use the LinkedIn data to drive business data for artificial intelligence:

“I want to be able to democratize AI so that any customer using these products is able to, in fact, take their own data and load it into AI for themselves,” he said.

“I think that’s the only way to long-term change this game, because if all we did was replace somebody else’s (sales), or (finance) application, that’s of no value, quite frankly,” he added.

Salesforce Competition

Microsoft has steered a course directly for Salesforce since the company acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion last year. Salesforce has already expressed its concern about how Microsoft will use the data gained from LinkedIn.

Salesforce chief legal officer Burke Norton said buying LinkedIn gives Microsoft an unfair advantage. It gives the company access to a unique dataset of 450 million professionals in 200 countries. The ownership could mean Microsoft will deny competitors access to the data.

Microsoft’s chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said in October the company has no such intentions.

It is not something that we have any intention of doing,” he said. “The LinkedIn data is public today and we want to make that data useful in lots of new ways.”

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