Salesforce's US$582m giggle: It buys cloud collaboration biz Quip

Surely Marc Benioff can recite the long list of folk who tried to kill Office, but died trying?

Salesforce has decided there's money in boring stuff: it's bought into office productivity with the acquisition of document/spreadsheet collaboration outfit Quip.

That purchase means the cloudy CRM vendor is trying a move that's failed many times before, namely trying to find a profitable niche for a Microsoft Office competitor.

Quip was founded by ex-Facebooker and once Google Mapper Bret Taylor; and Kevin Gibbs, formerly behind Google's App Engine. As well as document sharing, Quip adds the now-obligatory social stuff to documents, like chat and commenting; and the obligatory cloud storage locker.

Salesforce's filing (PDF) on the acquisition says US$582m of Salesforce stock will change hands to make the transaction happen.

Salesforce already promotes a "strategic partnership" with Microsoft that sees its CRM hook into Outlook. Just where Quip fits into that deal, and how Salesforce will use its new toy, remains obscure. At a guess, Salesforce sees some value in bundling document creation and collaboration rather than insisting customers link to other products.

Such a strategy would not surprise as Salesforce supremo Mark Benioff is no stranger to sniping at Microsoft: last week he said Salesforce would have paid more than Redmond's $26.2 billion to buy LinkedIn.

As for LinkedIn, it tried a similar move last week by acquiring corporate content-sharing outfit PointDrive. Microsoft has promised to operate LinkedIn at arm's length, but can't be entirely happy at its new toy offering a partial PowerPoint alternative.

Quip's Taylor moved to assure the world that the acquisition won't see the product disappear into the Salesforce maw and follow the all-too-common path of being extinguished by its new owner:

That's fair enough, since the “buy to shut down” model is more common where the acquisition target has a big competitive overlap with the buyer.

So it seems that what Benioff has next on his list is working out a price list in which Quip is competitive with Office365, while at the same time running it up across multiple clouds so far-flung users don't suffer the Pacific Cable effect trying to use it. ®

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