The move is set to modernise Microsoft’s traditional productivity applications by allowing employees to share what they are working on with their colleagues. It also strengthens its defences against rivals such as Google, which also has a range of cloud-based productivity tools with sharing applications.
Yammer already has more than 5 million customers who take advantage of its private employee social networking software, including brands such as eBay, Deloitte, Shell and Ford.
Microsoft’s chief executive says people should think of Yammer as a “fundamental part of our Office family”.
He adds: “The acquisition of Yammer underscores our commitment to deliver technology that businesses need and people love. Yammer adds a best-in-class enterprise social networking service to Microsoft’s growing portfolio of complementary cloud services.”
Yammer will continue to operate independently from Microsoft, having been given similar autonomy the technology giant gave to Skype when it acquired the internet telephony service for $8.5bn (£5.4bn) last year. David Sacks, Yammer’s co-founder and chief executive, will continue to lead the company.
Sacks says: “When we started Yammer four years ago, we set out to do something big. We had a vision for how social networking could change the way we work. Joining Microsoft will accelerate that vision and give us access to the technologies, expertise and resources we’ll need to scale and innovate.”
Earlier this month Microsoft unveiled Surface, its first tablet device, which it hopes to differentiate from the rest of the market with its range of “never seen before” apps. It hopes its in-built computing applications like Office and Skype will act as unique selling points against rivals such as Apple and Amazon.