There's been a flurry of speculation that Salesforce.com could be up for sale, but an alternative line of thinking points to a deal with Sage Group as the explanation for the team of lawyers Salesforce recently hired.
On Tuesday, Sage and Salesforce revealed the proof in the proverbial pudding. The two companies have announced a broad global partnership along with a new service from Sage that's built on the Salesforce1 platform-as-a-service designed to help small businesses move to the cloud.
"We've invested over a long period of time in our most significant development effort ever to build a platform to help our customers build applications," Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said during a press event. "Salesforce1 is now in the hands of hundreds of thousands of users, and today is by far the most exciting day ever for our platform, and for small businesses."
The partnership extends one announced with Sage earlier this year.
Optimized for mobile and social, Sage Life aims to help small companies connect their customer, accounting, payroll and finance data into one system accessible from any device and any location. A mobile control center lets employees view data in real time, and the system's social focus helps connect colleagues, customers, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders.
"Today's news reimagines the business of doing business for SMBs," said Sage CEO Stephen Kelly. "What this does is give every employee real-time information on the Apple watch or the device of their choice. It's as important to SMBs as the iPod was to consumers."
With 13,000 employees in 23 countries, Sage is aiming its new system at the 15 million or so businesses around the world with between 10 and 200 employees, Kelly said. It's scheduled for general availability this summer, and Kelly said he hopes a Sage app store won't be far behind.
Asked about the acquisition rumors, Salesforce's Benioff declined to comment.
"This is an announcement that's been planned for months," said Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research Group. "It sounds like a straight partnership and not much more. Someone could still be trying to buy Salesforce, but I sincerely doubt it, as I don't think the company is buy-able right now."