There has been a lot of speculation and analysis about the WooMattic deal — why it happened, what it means for the future of WordPress.com and the ecosystem as a whole. A lot of people have assumed Automattic bought WooThemes, so they could use WooCommerce to power a WordPress.com eCommerce offering.
That seems like a funny reason to spend what is rumored to be $30 million. If they just wanted to use WooCommerce, they could have just installed the plugin. If that’s why, then no one can ever complain about spending a few hundred or thousand on WooCommerce add-ons.
I think the real value here, besides a new revenue stream, is the people. Automattic is growing rapidly and finding employees who can thrive in a distributed company has to be a constant challenge for them. They just got fifty-some new employees, all of which are used to working remotely.
And yes, a lot of those people are experienced in building a WordPress eCommerce platform. WooCommerce-powered or built from scratch, a hosted eCommerce platform would be a very smart thing for Automattic to branch out into.
In addition, the leadership of WooCommerce is used to managing and planning a retail product-based business. Automattic is, for the most part, in the software as a service (SAAS) business. While Automattic does sell products, like Akismet and VaultPress to the self-hosted WordPress market, those are still SAAS products.
If Automattic is looking to make a major change, and start selling more products to self-hosted WordPress users, which would make sense, then they just acquired some new talent that is super successful at doing so.
I’m not denying that this acquisition is probably a sign that there are more eCommerce offerings coming from Automattic. But, I really think the move is less about WooCommerce, and more about product-based eCommerce in general.