Does Quip takeover mean Salesforce and Microsoft are less BFFs, more 'friends with benefits'?

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan August 1, 2016
Summary:
Salesforce has snapped up productivity apps player Quip, despite its recent love-in with Office365. Does this say something about the former BFFs relationship or is it just more 'co-opetition' in play?

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BFFs

In an industry where co-opetition isn’t just a made-up buzzword, but a state of mind, it’s difficult to keep track sometimes of who exactly is BFF with whom at any given time.   

Salesforce, for example, is BFF with Microsoft, a one time rival and ferocious critic of Salesforce, but, under CEO Satya Nadella, now a reformed character. Microsoft even explored the idea of buying Salesforce to combine their two cloudy empires.

That went nowhere, but Nadella was still invited to deliver a keynote address at last year’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, praising the relationship between the two firms and talking up the integrations between its Office365 productivity apps and services and Salesforce's CRM platform.

At the conference, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff stated that the relationship with Microsoft has been:

just beyond our expectations. We've deeply integrated all of our products. We've unified in ways we've never experienced before.

So of course Salesforce just went out and bought a challenger to Office365. It's the way it works in Silicon Valley. 

Office-killer?

In an SEC filing on Monday, Salesforce confirmed that that it’s paid $582 million for Quip, a cloud-based, collaborative word processing service, founded by former Facebook chief technology officer and Google engineer Bret Taylor. 

Quip’s mission statement has in part been to replace Microsoft Office with an alternaive that has chat built in to every document. Or as Taylor has stated in the past:

Quip is a collaborative productivity suite intended to be the next generation of what Microsoft Office was in the previous generation.

In a blog post, Taylor and co-founder Kevin Gibbs told subscribers:

Salesforce and Quip share the same philosophy about software: it should be in the cloud, built for the mobile era, and be inherently social. Salesforce pioneered the shift to enterprise cloud computing—and Quip has been working since 2012 to reimagine a productivity platform for teams that allows them to be more connected, more collaborative and get more work done.

They add:

As part of Salesforce, we will be able to expand our service more quickly and reach millions of people all over the world — which has been our mission since day one. And, we’ll be able to extend the Salesforce Customer Success Platform in powerful new ways with our next-generation productivity capabilities. The possibilities of mixing data, content and communication are amazing.

Gibb and Taylor will both continue to run Quip and report to Benioff, according to the man himself:

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Quip was set up with funding from, among others, Salesforce Ventures as well as Benioff himself in a personal capacity, so the deal isn’t entirely surprising.

Inevitably though the competitive nature of Quip v Office has let commentators to spectulate on the relationship between Salesforce and Microsoft. The two allies were rivals in bidding for LinkedIn earlier this year, a process that ended with a $26 billion win for Microsoft with Benioff expressing some frustration at the outcome and saying he'd have bid more if he'd had the chance.

Both companies were after the same thing with LinkedIn - access to professional data that could power smarter sales applications. The Quip acquisition suggests that Salesforce is now out to ‘grow its own’ on this front.

My take

An interesting move by Salesforce and one with a great deal of potential if executed on correctly. It’s not just an Office challenger of course, but also tools up Salesforce more against Google as well with its own productivity apps alternative. Watch this space to see how strongly this is pushed at this year’s Dreamforce in October.

Does this mean Micrsoft and Salesforce are no longer BFFs? As I said at the start, in the ever-shifting world of co-opetition, who knows what happens long term? For now, let’s just think of them as friends-with-benefits perhaps?

But I did note, with some amusement, that Benioff chose to retweet the following from Montel Williams:

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