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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?

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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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