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With Yammer, Microsoft May Hope to Grab Corporate Secrets

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's an old saying that "loose lips sink ships."

It's an evergreen reminder that acquiring intelligence about an enemy (from careless chatter by those with important information) can lead to military victories.

In business (if masked sufficiently), gathering such intelligence is often considered a good strategy.

That's why Microsoft's (MSFT) $1.2 billion purchase of of Yammer, a company that bills itself as "the Facebook" for corporations, is a lot smarter than many observers admit.

It is no secret that for Facebook (FB), one of its biggest challenges has always been managing user privacy.

Although it has made decent strides in that area, its hundreds of millions of users don't always do what they should to protect their own privacy.

Many corporations have created their own Facebook pages as an advertising platform, but they have strict corporate policies against using the site on their networks. This created a market for Yammer, because it is considered somewhat more secure.

Yammer, which is only 4 years old, currently has 5 million users. Its so-called "in-company" social network allows workers to form groups and interact freely with each other.

But I wonder how much of that freedom will now become restricted? I see this acquisition as making perfect sense.

Microsoft, which already owns a stake in Facebook, has been looking to fill this "social void" for quite some time. Its SharePoint application was once touted as a Yammer-like idea, although it never fully took off.

Furthermore, the company has been struggling to find a way to make its suite of Office programs more interactive to fend off threats from Google (GOOG) and its free apps service, and I think it has now solved that problem.

Moreover, Yammer does not rely on ads and is strictly subscription-based. That makes it the ideal "spying tool" because in order to subscribe one has to provide verifiable information in order to pay for the subscription.

For this reason I think this deal is likely Microsoft's smartest move since it bought DOS almost four decades ago.

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