Salesforce Extends Microsoft Partnership with Outlook Connector on Tuesday unveiled its new "Lightning for Outlook" connector tool as part of the collaboration deal it inked with Microsoft two years ago.

The release of the connector, which is designed to give Office users dynamic and customizable access to their CRM data from their Outlook inbox, comes at a rather awkward time for the two companies. Two week ago, Microsoft agreed to acquire social networking site LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. In an interview with Recode, CEO Marc Benioff said that price tag was driven up after his company made its own offer for LinkedIn.

In an added twist,'s failed LinkedIn bid came a year after Microsoft tried to acquire

Despite whatever hard feelings Microsoft and might have over the LinkedIn buy, they are strategic partners; the connector will benefit both companies, which are under pressure from their shared customer bases to improve the utility of their respective offerings.

Lightning for Outlook brings functionality from the SaaS suite into users' Outlook inboxes. This enables, for example, a sales rep to update a price quote with the Salesforce SteelBrick CPQ solution directly in Outlook, or use a partner app like Altify, which provides a sales productivity tool.

The connector is based on's Lightning Components, announced last week, which is a framework of reusable code blocks, many of which are available on the company's AppExchange. The framework comes with the Lightning App Builder tool, which lets developers drag and drop those components to build new apps or embed them into third-party software. Users will soon be able to embed those components into Outlook.

Lightning for Outlook is designed to offer a more intuitive user experience. When users scroll through their inboxes, it has a more modern display and an embedded search capability that lets users find data within their inboxes, the company said.

Lightning for Outlook is available in the Office Store as a free add-in. Lighting Synch is also free and available now for customers with Sales Cloud Lightning Enterprise Edition licenses or higher. The Lightning Components Framework for Outlook is set for release this fall. The company said it will disclose the price of the framework upon its release.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.