Microsoft in blockbuster bid for Yammer?

Microsoft is in closed talks to buy Yammer, the operator of a popular business-oriented social network, according to unnamed sources inside the 2008 start-up company close to the discussions and a tweeting eavesdropper in California.

The deal, worth more than £645 million pounds ($1 billion) according to initial speculation, could be pushed through as soon as tomorrow. Both Microsoft and Yammer have declined to comment thus far.

The rumoured acquisition would enable Microsoft to add a social networking element to the product suite it currently offers to its corporate clients - Yammer's software enables employees to liaise in a user-friendly environment that resembles Facebook more than it does traditional business software like Office.

A move for Yammer, which is now used by more than 200,000 companies including web giant eBay, would thrust Microsoft into the social-enterprise tool market and put it in direct competition with Salesforce.com, who offer a very similar product called Chatter and recently splurged over £480 million for Buddy Media.

It would also further intensify the company's heated rivalry with Oracle, who recently bought two social media data analysis companies - Vitrue and Collective Intellect. Yammer itself expanded only recently.

Despite reports of a deal making the rounds on both blogs and respected news outlets, ITProPortal should stress that the only known source of speculation at this stage is an admin manager who alleges to have overheard a saucy business-related conversation at a coffee shop in San Francisco.