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Today, Salesforce.com announced it was acquiring “relationship-intelligence” company RelateIQ. Soon, Salesforce will use the acquisition to create a new research-and-development division, likely called Salesforce X, a source familiar with the matter tells VentureBeat.

“Focused on next gen R&D,” the source told us.

The roughly $390 million move will give Salesforce its own version of Google’s product-research lab, Google[x].

Just don’t expect driverless cars: Expect smarter Salesforce software, and perhaps more types of software focusing on more than just sales tools. That would give Salesforce the ability to target a wider range of business applications than it currently does.


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The source’s information fits nicely with the goals that RelateIQ set for itself long before the acquisition. Although the company is focused on identifying the most promising sales leads and helping salespeople win more business, its data-analysis tools might be useful in many other areas.

“We view our product as having a wide application, but right now we’re focused primarily on supercharging sales reps,” RelateIQ co-founder and chief technology officer Adam Evans told VentureBeat in an interview in April.

So it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine the RelateIQ team incorporating its nifty information-extraction techniques into existing Salesforce software for tracking sales leads, marketing campaigns, and help-desk tickets. The team could also end up developing other kinds of helpful software that specific types of business people could use.

RelateIQ already has an impressive talent pool, including DJ Patil (who is a leading figure in the data science community) as well as former engineers and research scientists from Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and other companies.

In that way, Salesforce might be able to keep diversifying away from the customer-relationship management market where it made its name more than a decade ago.

Salesforce has been pushing into new markets already through a range of acquisitions and investments. For instance, with its acquisition of ExactTarget, its recent health-focused partnership with Philips, and with investments in its Heroku platform as a service.

And on the data front, Salesforce has acknowledged shortcomings. Pointing the RelateIQ team at the task of making the most of existing data from email, phone calls, and other sources should bring Salesforce up to snuff and possibly give it a lead over competitors like Oracle and Microsoft.

It’s telling that, according to our source, RelateIQ chief executive Steve Loughlin will report directly to Salesforce founder and chief executive Marc Benioff. Clearly Salesforce grasps its need to innovate quickly.

RelateIQ and Salesforce declined to comment for this story.

Kia Kokalitcheva contributed reporting.

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