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October in San Francisco is a special time. The fog lifts. The temperature rises. The Blue Angels buzz overhead for Fleet Week as tens of thousands of business technology types descend on the city for Salesforce.comâs annual conference.
This yearâs Salesforce shindig comes with a little extra noise: For weeks now, there have been reports that the company, which makes online software to help users manage tasks like sales and marketing, is looking to buy Twitter.
It is not a stretch to say that this would be a puzzling move. Salesforce has become a staple of San Francisco. It is arguably the cityâs biggest tech employer, and the soon-to-be tallest building in town will carry the companyâs name. While it has never had big profits, the Salesforce business appears stable and growing.
Just a few miles down the road from Salesforceâs main office is the home of Twitter, a company with a much-better-known brand but a far less successful business. Twitter is a giant of social media, of course, used by celebrities, athletes and presidential candidates. But it is struggling with growth and its problem with trolls, a term for those who torment others online, and various sorts of hateful content have proved hard to fix.
How the two companies would jell is not clear. Could Salesforce absorb all of Twitterâs content to improve its artificial intelligence projects? Could Salesforce help its customers gain a better understanding of their brands by having close access to the worldâs Twitter feeds? And would any of that justify putting up with Twitterâs problems?
Investors are delivering a message to Marc Benioff, Salesforceâs chief executive, about the rumored deal: Please donât do this. As Quentin Hardy writes, investors have pushed the Salesforce stock price down about 5 percent since news broke of a potential deal.
âThis would be a disaster,â said Joel Fishbein, managing director at BTIG, a financial services firm. âBenioff is a visionary, but this could blow up. Engineers could leave Salesforce, and it would send the stock down 30 or 40 percent.â
Mixing different kinds of tech companies into one big outfit rarely goes well. EBay and Skype didnât work, before eBay sold Skype to a group of investors. Cisco Systems, the networking technology company, tried to get into the consumer electronics business with acquisitions like Pure Digital, but it eventually shut down the whole consumer effort. And do we even need to mention star-crossed combinations like Google and Motorola, and Microsoft and Nokia?
Sometimes itâs best to stick to what youâre good at. Your product may not be a fixture on the celebrity circuit, but having your name on the tallest building in your hometown is a pretty high-profile thing, too.