(With apologies to the New York State Lottery system…)

“Class, today we’re going to learn how to say ‘One billion dollars.’ Anyone?”





“Uh… what?”


“Yes, that’s it!”

“Yammer” is how Microsoft says one billion dollars. (Actually, US$1.2 billion, but what’s a couple hundred mil among friends?) That’s how much Microsoft has paid to acquire social network software maker Yammer in a deal that has the Twitterverse wild with speculation that the move is designed to strengthen SharePoint.

I weighed in with my two cents (or 140 characters, whichever has greater value), but then thought I’d speak to a real expert, so I got in touch with Mike Watson, a longtime SharePointer who started a company called SnapWorkSocial to deal with SharePoint’s social inadequacies. Aside from the bitterness (“Outside of NewsGator, there are lots of other startups like mine who just got shafted because we were all focused on the opportunity to be Microsoft’s solution for social.”), Mike has an interesting take on the deal.

The acquisition, he said, is “ultimately good news for Microsoft customers. Microsoft has done everything but completely ignore the social revolution, and Yammer gives them a good stake in the game.”

Yammer, he noted, gives Microsoft four million customers to upsell into SharePoint and the full Office 365 offering. It also received an $80 million investment recently, and it started competing with SharePoint by building CMS tools, so Watson speculated this could be a buy-the-competition move for which Microsoft is famous (or infamous, depending upon where you sit).

An important issue, of course, is that Yammer is a cloud solution, but not one that’s yet compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud. So, Watson said, “I expect to see a long ramp-up before any integration happens with Office 365 and Azure.”

And, he wondered, why would Microsoft plunk down its dollars on Yammer when NewsGator already has a turnkey SharePoint integration? Is it all about the number of customers, or is Microsoft so much more interested in cloud solutions now?

After the announcement, I went back and looked at my notes from Microsoft SharePoint director Jared Spataro’s keynote at SPTechCon SF back in February, where he proclaimed that social isn’t a fad, and he described the vision of people working with people effortlessly, with the overarching message of people “get work done, together.”

So, did Spataro know about the Yammer deal then, and base his image of SharePoint social tools on that? Or was the talk simply slide-ware to deflect attention away from the fact that out of the box, Microsoft’s social capabilities were decidedly lacking? Are we to believe it was mere serendipity that a deal for Yammer came together between describing that vision and the rollout of the next version of SharePoint? Is that deal responsible for pushing back the initial beta release, which had been widely speculated to happen this month?

By the time we get answers to these questions, they will no longer matter. I’m just now more curious than ever to see if the next version revealed to us has only the enhanced My Site capabilities Spataro described back in February, or something more. I’m betting on the former.