It looks Marc Benioff does have reason to worry about the LinkedIn-Microsoft deal

Marc BenioffBusiness InsiderSalesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Although Microsoft executive vice president Scott Guthrie has said that Microsoft will share LinkedIn data with other software makers after it completes its acquisition, the devil is in the details.

Apparently one devilish detail is that Microsoft is talking with other software makers like SugarCRM about giving them direct access to a small portion of LinkedIn’s data, reports The Information’s Steve Nellis.

Salesforce has been complaining to the European Commission about Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn. It is worried that Microsoft will block access to LinkedIn’s vast store of professional data and it wants the EU to either block the acquisition (unlikely) or put conditions on the deal (unlikely but more plausible).

Both Microsoft and Salesforce compete head to head in a software field known as customer relationship management (CRM), which helps salespeople track prospects and manage interactions with customers. Salespeople rely heavily on LinkedIn to help them find prospects and make cold call emails. That’s why both companies tried to buy LinkedIn.

SugarCRM is another player, as is Oracle (plus, there are a bunch of automated marketing companies, like HubSpot, which compete less directly).

To nullify Salesforce’s complaints to regulatory agencies, Microsoft had apparently approached a few CRM and marketing players, including SugarCRM, about becoming data partners, Nellis reports. Microsoft was offering somewhat limited access to LinkedIn data that they could integrate into directly into their software products. The access would include name, photo and current title, a minimum data set to help salespeople target leads from their software, instead of how they do it today, manually sifting through LinkedIn.

The hope from Microsoft is that this data access, limited as it is, will appease the people who could join Salesforce’s formal protest with the EU. If no others join the protest, then the EU could be less likely to impose restrictions.

On the flip side, after Microsoft closes its purchase of LinkedIn without restrictions, it could indeed restrict access to LinkedIn’s data in all sorts of other ways — exactly what Salesforce fears. Microsoft has already said it plans to start a price war with Salesforce.

Microsoft says the acquisition has received regulatory approval in the US, Canada, and Brazil and Microsoft expects it to close by year end.

Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.

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