A couple of years ago while a guest of Marc Benioff onstage at Salesforce’s Dreamforce customer conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said something that seemed to signal a new period of amicable cooperation for his company. Several pieces of evidence seem to suggest that the period of friendly cooperation that was in full bloom in 2015 could be over, and not just with Salesforce.

At the time, Nadella said something rather profound about the need for big brands to cooperate in the age of the cloud: “It is incumbent upon us, especially those of us who are platform vendors to partner broadly to solve real pain points our customers have,” Nadella said in 2015.

When you looked at the comment against the backdrop of the time, it appeared to be a giant signal that Microsoft was open to forging new agreements with competitors that would be mutually beneficial to the companies involved, and would help customers solve those real pain points he alluded to.

Essentially, Nadella was stating the obvious that in the age of the cloud, companies needed to work together more than ever before because customers were demanding it. Yet even at that time, Nadella made it clear his company fully intended to compete hard within markets against Salesforce and everyone else — the cooperation only went so far — but he saw an opportunity for his company by playing the role of affable partner.

This was in stark contrast to the model that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer followed. Back then, it was more of a battle of large companies with full stacks trying to lock customers into their computing approach. In that world,…

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