Nadella will continue strategic acquisition of mobile productivity apps

Dina Bass at Bloomberg Business has been tipped by people familiar with Microsoft’s plans that Satya Nadella is planning to continue his acquisitions of mobile productivity applications for iOS and Android. Nadella has recently scooped up the popular calendar app Sunrise (see Microsoft reported to acquire calendar app Sunrise), and the email/calendar app Acompli, which has been relaunched as Outlook for iOS (see The best Gmail client is Outlook? Really?).

Microsoft has a large number of apps for those platforms now, and as I explored in a recent post — Nadella’s first year shows he’s staying ahead of the cloud/mobile wave — but Bass’ article shows that this is part of a larger strategic plan, not just a few random deals. According to Bass’ informants we may see other categories of apps acquired:

Now Microsoft is trying to complete more such transactions, with categories under consideration including note-taking and project management, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are confidential. Microsoft is looking largely at deals valued from the tens of millions of dollars to as much as a few hundred million dollars, said one of the people.

‘Project management’ could mean all sorts of things, in this context, but task management tools would make sense, for certain.

One Bass informant explicitly mentioned Yammer, which Microsoft bought in Ballmer’s day for $1.2 billion, and comments,

While Yammer has helped alter Microsoft’s development culture, it hasn’t pulled through as many Office sales as anticipated, said the person.

Hmmm. I didn’t think the metric for Yammer success was ‘pulling through Office sales’, but I guess that’s the negative judgment at this point. Although, my understanding is that the changes in Microsoft development culture wasn’t a function of using Yammer, but the spread and adoption of Yammer’s agile development practices. Those form part of the push that Nadella launched last year to change the development culture at Microsoft, specifically pulling development and testing back into one functional group, as well as decreasing outside consultants.

The negative vibe about Yammer matches other indications I’ve gotten in recent months, too , and of course David Sacks, Yammer’s founder and CEO, left Microsoft last summer (see David Sacks leaves Yammer as part of Microsoft reorganization), which may be another indication of a souring attitude about Yammer at Microsoft. Also, Microsoft seems to be developing Yammerish capabilities directly in Office 365 (see Microsoft rolling out Groups in Office 365: the end of Yammer?).

The limitations on deal size rules out bigger companies like Evernote, Slack, and other companies valued over a billion.

Task management company Asana might fit the bill, as the last round of funding valued the company at $250 million.

A Bass informant specifically calls out smart ways to work with spreadsheets on mobile devices as an area of interest. Maybe they should take a look at Quip, then (see Quip adds spreadsheets to its productivity tool). There’s also Smartsheet, which include spreadsheets and project management, too (see Smartsheet announces Workmaps, a tool to visualize connections), although it’s not primarily mobile.

At any rate, it looks like Nadella’s acquisition spree won’t be slowing soon.