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Will Salesforce buying Slack kill email in 5 years?

Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield hasn’t been shy in several interviews with me about his desire to put an end to email once and for all. To Butterfield, singularly answering emails (usually on Slack’s most heated rival, Microsoft Outlook) without being able to collaborate with co-workers is a colossal waste of time in this day and age.

Now Butterfield will truly get his shot to put emails 10 feet under in the future.

Salesforce said Tuesday after market close that it would acquire Slack in a cash and stock deal valuing the workplace communications service at $27.7 billion. Salesforce will play a key role in scaling Slack up to more high-paying corporate customers in a major challenge to Slack competitors such as Microsoft Teams, Outlook and Google’s Gmail.

The way Salesforce founder Marc Benioff sees it, Salesforce (aided by new addition Slack) stands to become the “central nervous system” of the corporate office — in effect supplanting Microsoft and Google software. In large part, that view is why Salesforce paid an exorbitant 25 times revenue to acquire relative upstart Slack.


“Wow, the demonstration is incredible, and what I saw, I think, is going to just truly excite our customers, and they're going to have the ability to have a next-generation capability for their companies,” Benioff told Yahoo Finance following the deal announcement.

That would be powered by Salesforce Customer 360, which allows the company to bring together fragmented parts of a business like sales, marketing, commerce, service, etc. into a single source of truth.

Benioff believes that adding Slack as the new interface for Customer 360 is the “icing on the cake.”

Declining email use

While the promise of the combination to crush email over time is in fact there, the Street doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon despite Salesforce’s heft in the enterprise domain. The fact is emails have become as ingrained in our society as turning on the water faucet for water. It’s how people all over the world communicate, and will likely do so until those currently under the age of five enter the period of communicating with classmates and then co-workers.

The Slack app icon is displayed on a computer screen, Wednesday, Dec 2, 2020, in Tokyo. In a deal announced Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, business software pioneer is buying work-chatting service Slack for $27.7 billion in a deal aimed at giving the two companies a better shot at competing against longtime industry powerhouse Microsoft. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

“There is a better chance of me playing in the Masters in April than killing email in the next five years. Email communication is not going anywhere in my opinion,” Wedbush tech analyst Dan Ives tells Yahoo Finance. “However, more collaborative messaging is the wave of the future and that’s a tailwind for Benioff & Co. over the next few years with Slack under its hood.

Salesforce/Slack chipping away at email’s lingering dominance — rather than ending it overnight — is a view held by others.

“We’ll see declining utility/usage of e-mail, but it will be important channel for the foreseeable future,” says Piper Sandler tech analyst Brent Bracelin says. “Email didn’t kill voice calls. SMS [texts] didn’t kill email. WhatsApp and Messenger didn’t kill SMS. I would just expect more communication channels, not less.”

Nevertheless, Butterfield will get his shot to stomp out email.

Yahoo Finance’s Julia La Roche contributed to this story.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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