In probably the biggest technology deal ever: Microsoft just announced it plans to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
It is an all-cash transaction and it will value LinkedIn’s shares at $196 each.
Microsoft says LinkedIn will retain its own brand and independence, and existing CEO Jeff Weiner will remain and report directly to Satya Nadella.
LinkedIn has taken a lot of flak over the years for not having the scale of Facebook or the cool factor of Twitter or SnapChat. But, for me, I love the professionally-focused social network. It has absolutely replaced the ol’ rolodex and with recent features such as alerts when someone in your network changes job and/or earns promotions, it does help users stay connected on a daily bases.
But, what does this acquisition mean to the overall LinkedIn user and why did Microsoft buy the social network at all? Here’s what I think.
MICROSOFT WILL FINALLY HAVE A LEGIT ENTRY INTO SOCIAL NETWORKING
Clearly, Microsoft wants to boost their social networking presence. They’ve struggled to break into enterprise social networks, having spent $1.2 billion on Yammer nearly four years ago, only to see businesses largely ignore the internal Twitter-like tool.
While Facebook has become an endless stream of pet videos and political rants, LinkedIn owns the business conversation. For the most part, the site remains troll-less and focused on relevant professional discussions and content sharing. So, this now gives Microsoft what they’ve wanted for so long: an entry into professional-side social networking.
WE WILL LIKELY SEE MORE SPAM ON THE SITE
While the trolls may be kept at bay, I imagine Microsoft will leverage this acquisition to directly sell services to the 433 million people with LinkedIn profiles – which will surely result in a mass exodus as LinkedIn has always presented itself as a SPAM-free environment (i.e. requiring that you know someone before connecting with them).
DATA MINING TO MAKE CORTANA MORE USEFUL
I imagine Microsoft plans to use LinkedIn for data mining that will make their virtual assistant, Cortana, more useful.
At the moment the AI feature provides information about your calendar, suggesting what time you need to leave to arrive at a meeting. Now, before you leave for a meeting, Cortana will likely comb through your contact’s information and provide you with details on their background or recent posting activity that may be useful.
This makes sense of the acquisition for me. The data mining that will be available to Microsoft will enable them to beef up a variety of features. Think about it. Microsoft already knows your calendar (Outlook), your meetings (Outlook), your coworkers (Delve) your accounts (Microsoft Dynamics CRM) and some of your expertise (Delve). Microsoft calls this the Office Graph.
For his part, Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn, said that his company envisions a so-called “Economic Graph,” a digital representation of every employee and their resume, a digital record of every job that’s available, as well as every job and even every digital skill necessary to get those jobs.
Bear in mind, LinkedIn also owns Lynda.com, a training network where you can take classes to learn those skills. I imagine MS will begin to leverage that data and perhaps even create some additional training courses themselves.
MORE APPS AND MORE MOBILE-DRIVEN SERVICES
Microsoft has been slowly reducing its focus on hardware and placing a greater emphasis on apps and the mobile space in general, with recent moves like Outlook for the iPhone and a Bing app that tells you about local restaurants and movies near you.
But over the past decade, Microsoft has faced two big disruptive threats. First was the online advancements of Google as people have increasingly adopted Gmail and Google Docs instead of desktop software like Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office.
Next came the mobile revolution, led by Apple. People are using smartphones and tablets running Apple’s iOS — or Google’s Android — instead of Microsoft software.
But while Microsoft has been bleeding market share among consumers, the company continues to be popular with business customers. So Nadella has focused on expanding and modernizing the company’s business services products. Who better to help fill your AI tools with professional data than THE professional social networking platform?
Let me know your thoughts. Will this mark the end of LinkedIn as a valuable tool? Or, will this move mark the resurgence of Microsoft in the professional services space?