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By Alex Williams

Microsoft has issued a roadmap for Yammer that includes a drop in pricing and deeper integration with Sharepoint and Office365. The news comes as Microsoft holds its annual Sharepoint conference in Las Vegas this week. Jared Spataro, senior director of the Office Division at Microsoft, wrote a post on the topic explaining the role Yammer is having on the company.

The Yammer service can still be purchased as a standalone product, though it’s clear that Spataro sees making Yammer part of a unified communication strategy that packages Skype, SkyDrive and Office products into one experience.

Yammer has historically offered four different options. Microsoft has reduced them to two: a free version called Yammer Basic and a paid version called Yammer Enterprise. Yammer Enterprise, which will be offered with Office 365 Enterprise, will drop from $15 per person per month to $3 per month.

Like Salesforce.com and others, Microsoft is talking about unified identity. That’s a fancy way of saying Microsoft will make Yammer, Sharepoint and other tools accessible through a single identity. We heard a bit about this at Build. The idea is to make it possible to log in, use Yammer as an activity stream, Skype for calls, and Office365 to manage documents.

Striking is how important Yammer has become to Microsoft. In an interesting revelation, Spataro talks about the claims Yammer made when Microsoft pursued the purchase:

When we first started our discussions with Yammer, one of the things that caught my attention was the claim that their customers were “transforming their businesses” with social networking. It’s not uncommon for technology vendors to make claims, but what surprised me was that they had clear evidence that something extraordinary was happening to the companies that were embracing social. After spending more time with the team, I learned the secret. Customers were driving real business results with Yammer, but it wasn’t because there was some inherent magic in a newsfeed. It was because they had embraced the idea that open conversations and personal connections could help them with their most important strategic initiatives.

Keep in mind that Microsoft bought Yammer less than a year ago. Prior to that, social networking apps like Yammer had boomed in popularity, largely driven by Twitter, Facebook and other apps that use activity streams as the main basis for how people use them.

But now Microsoft is prioritizing social. It will take some time to make the shift, but the news is wake-up call to the market that Microsoft is now more in the game and will invest all resources necessary to build its market share.

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