Microsoft finally pulls the trigger on Yammer purchase

But what does it mean to customers and the future of the product?

After much delay, Microsoft finally (and rather quietly) announced the Yammer deal this week. It left me wondering what Yammer customers must think of this deal because Yammer was supposed to represent something different, a new way of selling software. But in the end, they were sold for a bundle of money to the company that best represents the traditional software model they were hoping to topple.

Talk about disappointing, and of course, the irony is also hard to miss.

In his note to customers, Yammer Chief Executive David Sacks, explained that Yammer will remain under his direction within the...wait for it...Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office division. Great, I'm sure Yammer customers who were looking for a cloud collaboration solution were thrilled to hear this. He went onto say, "As a Yammer customer, you will continue to get a secure, private social network--delivered with the same focus on simplicity, innovation, and cross-platform experiences."

But will they? How can they stay simple, innovative and especially cross-platform when they are sucked inside the Microsoft Office traditional software machine?

Laurence Hart writing on his Word of Pie blog was more enthusiastic about the deal, writing "This acquisition allows Yammer to still have a chance to be relevant while rewarding its founders for all that they have contributed to the industry. I couldn't be happier for them."

He's right about one thing, they certainly cashed out. As for Microsoft, it gets itself a nice little Enterprise 2.0 tool, but at what price? Forbes points out that Microsoft paid an astounding 50 times the 2011 Yammer revenue. I guess Microsoft really, really liked them.

As I wrote this morning in my Enterprise 2.0 wrap-up, it is highly likely this is just another in a long line of Enterprise 2.0 product acquisitions. These companies are ripe for purchase.

As I look at this one though, I can't help but recall a testy exchange at a conference a couple of years ago between David Sacks and Christian Finn, who was the head of SharePoint at the time. Finn was suggesting that Microsoft was a safer choice for enterprise users than some cloud upstart. If I recall correctly, Sacks was hopping mad at that assertion.

Today, Sacks is part of the Microsoft machine. He's got a bundle of cash of course and he's worked hard for it, but I can't help but feel this is a horrible cultural match. The customers who bought Yammer did so because they wanted a different approach. They didn't want Microsoft.

Microsoft wants to dabble in the cloud and this gives them a bunch of talent that knows how to do that, but I don't see this ending well. Microsoft may find a way to incorporate Yammer functionality into Office, Office 365 and SharePoint, but unless you're a Microsoft shop and a Yammer customer (an unlikely combination in my view), then you're probably going to move on now.

It's worth noting that I put out a call for Yammer customer responses to this deal on Twitter, Quora and LinkedIn. I didn't get a single response, so I can't say definitively how they feel about this deal, but I can speculate, and I'm guessing they don't like it.

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