Yahoo: Desperate for Web 2.0 traction?

According to a report that appeared this morning on Kara Swisher’s blog at All Things D and later at TechCrunch — where Mike Arrington is no doubt swimming in scoops, thanks to his TechCrunch40 conference — Yahoo has apparently acquired webmail-provider Zimbra for the whopping sum of $350-million, a purchase price that sources have told GigaOm is coming mostly in cash.

My first thought on hearing this news was: What the heck did Yahoo do that for? Doesn’t it have its own Ajaxy, Web-ified email service, which it only recently foisted on users launched to much acclaim? And even that modest effort took more than two years after buying Oddpost, which was one of the first Ajax-driven Webmail clients (if we ignore Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access, which kind of pioneered Ajax, believe it or not).

One thing that might have attracted Yahoo is Zimbra’s relatively new Zimbra Desktop, which gives users of its Webmail and calendar services access to their data offline — a feature that Google is also reportedly working on. Still, Yahoo must truly be desperate for something that will move the needle in Web 2.0 terms. Paying $350-million for Zimbra values each user of the app at about $60. By comparison, CBS paid about $18 per user.