Zoho to Salesforce: Let us onto Force.com

CEO Sridhar Vembu accuses Salesforce of freezing out Zoho as possible payback for rejection of earlier buyout bid.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

After Tuesday, Barack Obama and John McCain will (presumably) bury the hatchet and move on with their lives. I'm not quite sure I can say the same thing about the respective heads of Zoho and Salesforce.com.

Sridhar Vembu, CEO of AdventNet, the company behind the Zoho suite of online applications, has again called out Marc Benioff in a public post accusing Salesforce of attempting to "block customers from migrating to Zoho CRM."

Earlier this year, Vembu publicized details of negotiations he had with Salesforce in a bid to make Zoho work with AppExchange, an online marketplace for hosted business software applications. A week prior to the product launch, however, Vembu claimed that Benioff suspended all joint development work between the companies in favor of a different tack.

"He offered repeatedly to acquire Zoho outright, which we rejected. I told him there is absolutely no fit between our companies, particularly with his business model (as noted above) and our business model. I told him there is just no cultural fit between our companies and such an acquisition would be miserable for both parties. Finally, he offered to let us integrate Zoho into AppExchange, provided we pull the plug on Zoho CRM. We told him that kind of pre-condition is totally unacceptable, and it also completely negates his claims of openness of their platform. Needless to say, we never did agree on the issue, and we dropped the integration effort."

Vembu again revisited that chronology in Tuesday's post, one day after Benioff, making the invidious comparison to Microsoft, described Salesforce's strategy as inclusive.

"Since then, Salesforce has repeatedly tried to block customers from migrating to Zoho CRM, by telling them (falsely) that they cannot take their data out of Salesforce until their contract duration is over. We have emails from customers recounting this."

Later, he told me that he had had a private e-mail exchange with Benioff as recently as a month ago, where the question of Zoho applications running on the Force.com platform again got raised.

"He refused," according to Vembu. "He just said that that's part of their business stragety and their prerogative. No one is questioning his right to do that, but it's not consistent with openness. They claim that Force.com is open but that's really not true."

A Salesforce spokeswoman said the company would not have immediate comment.