Microsoft also has been posing a threat to Salesforce’s main products, a lineup of tools that help other companies manage their customer relationships.
“For Benioff, this is all about Microsoft,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives. “It’s just clear Microsoft is moving further and further away from Salesforce when it comes to the cloud wars.”
Salesforce has been building on its success in recent years to diversify into other fields, largely through a series of acquisitions that included its previous largest deal, a $15.7 billion purchase of data analytics specialist Tableau Software last year.
Salesforce was also among the companies bidding to buy LinkedIn in 2016 before Microsoft snapped up the professional networking service for more than $26 billion in 2016.
Many of the deals have been financed with Salesforce’s stock, which is worth nearly seven times more than it was a decade ago.
Slack, on the other hand, hasn’t proven as popular with investors, even though its service that publicly launched in 2014 is being increasingly used by companies and government agencies looking for more nimble alternatives than email. Before news reports of a potential deal with Salesforce surfaced last week, Slack’s stock was still hovering around its initial listing price of $26 when the company went public nearly 18 months ago.
“This is a stellar exit strategy for Slack,” said Kate Leggett, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Microsoft Teams is eating Slack’s lunch.”
But Leggett said it’s also “really good for Salesforce” to add a popular collaboration tool to its own software suite, which is focused on managing customer relationships for businesses and government agencies. She said the need for customer-relations agents and other Salesforce users to swarm around a topic and collaborate remotely has only grown with the coronavirus pandemic that has sent so many office workers home and got many hooked on new online tools.
“I think the pandemic’s played a massive role” in paving the way for the deal, Ives said. “The Zooms, the Slacks, the Microsoft Teams, that’s going to be a new part of the workforce.”
Ives said Benioff was also running out of time to catch up to Microsoft, which remains a secondary player in Salesforce’s core customer-relations-management business, known as CRM, but way ahead in providing a broader array of cloud-based services.
Slack and Salesforce are headquartered about a block away from each other in San Francisco. Slack’s office is in the shadow of the 62-story Salesforce Tower, the city’s tallest building.