[caption id="attachment_1691" align="aligncenter" width="427" caption="Yammer's business social-networking features (which include mobile) compete with those of Salesforce.com and others."] [/caption] Yammer could become the next social-networking tool snatched up by Microsoft, according to anonymous sources speaking to Bloomberg. Those sources added that Microsoft could pay as much as $1 billion for the property. Microsoft spokespeople routinely decline to publicly comment on rumors or speculation. Self-billed as “The Enterprise Social Network,” Yammer offers workers a platform for posting announcements and files, search for subject-matter experts, crowd-source answers to questions, and organize into groups. Yammer also allows universal search across both its network and applications such as Microsoft SharePoint. Yammer, which started up in 2008 and boasts of use in more than 200,000 companies worldwide, competes directly with Salesforce.com, which offers a variety of social-networking tools for businesses. Salesforce Chatter lets workers set up profiles, view colleagues’ activity feeds, message in real time, group together, and share files. Like Yammer, Chatter features deep integration with SharePoint. What use does Microsoft have for a cloud-based social network targeted at businesses? The answer is: probably lots—hence the rumors of its willingness to spend a cool billion to acquire Yammer. As Mary Jo Foley pointed out this morning on her All About Microsoft blog, Microsoft lacks a robust social collaboration tool: Microsoft OfficeTalk is largely extinct, and SharePoint’s proprietary social networking features have never gained much recognition. Microsoft’s “all in” cloud strategy, meanwhile, places the company in direct competition for business customers with companies such as Salesforce and Oracle, the latter of which has shown increased interest in social networking. Buying Yammer would accelerate Microsoft’s efforts to compete against those firms. Microsoft has demonstrated a willingness to spend massive amounts of cash to acquire companies servicing a very specific area. In 2011, it acquired Skype for $8.5 billion, molding it into a separate Microsoft division headed by Skype CEO Tony Bates. Microsoft made no secret of its plans to mesh Skype functionality with a variety of products; moreover, it gave the company a new way to compete with Google, which markets a VoIP (voice-over-IP) service via Gmail, and Apple’s FaceTime video-conferencing platform. If the deal actually happens, Yammer would provide the same potential for integrating a new software layer into Microsoft’s business and consumer platforms. That being said, not all such integrations go smoothly.   Image: Yammer