Microsoft made huge news this week by planning a LinkedIn acquisition for $26.2 billion in cash. Most of us want to know: why? Specifically, why was Microsoft so bullish on this LinkedIn acquisition?
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella distributed an internal memo to staff regarding the LinkedIn acquisition, and the note attempts to answer why Microsoft is interested in the leading professional social network.
Below is Nadella's LinkedIn acquisition memo, edited to focus on aspects of the deal that will affect LinkedIn users:
This deal brings together the world's leading professional cloud with the world's leading professional network. It's clear to me that the LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business and an impressive network of more than 433 million professionals.
[Microsoft and LinkedIn] are in pursuit of a common mission centered on empowering people and organizations. Along with the new growth in our Office 365 commercial and Dynamics businesses this deal is key to our bold ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes. Think about it: How people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done and ultimately find success requires a connected professional world. It requires a vibrant network that brings together a professional's information in LinkedIn's public network with the information in Office 365 and Dynamics. This combination will make it possible for new experiences such as a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you're trying to complete. As these experiences get more intelligent and delightful, the LinkedIn and Office 365 engagement will grow. And in turn, new opportunities will be created for monetization through individual and organization subscriptions and targeted advertising.
The opportunity for Office 365 and Dynamics is just as profound. Over the past decade we have moved Office from a set of productivity tools to a cloud service across any platform and device. This deal is the next step forward for Office 365 and Dynamics as they connect to the world's largest and most valuable professional network. In essence, we can reinvent ways to make professionals more productive while at the same time reinventing selling, marketing and talent management business processes. I can't wait to see what our teams dream up when we can begin working together once the deal closes, which we expect will happen this calendar year.
A big part of this deal is accelerating LinkedIn's growth. To that end, LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand and independence, as well as their culture which is very much aligned with ours. Jeff will continue to be CEO of LinkedIn, he'll report to me and join our senior leadership team. In essence, what I've asked Jeff to do is manage LinkedIn with key performance metrics that accrue to our overall success. He'll decide from there what makes sense to integrate and what does not. We know that near term there will be no changes in who reports to whom so no reporting relationships at Microsoft will change in that regard. This approach is designed to keep the LinkedIn team focused on driving results while simultaneously partnering on product integration plans with the Office 365 and Dynamics teams.
Some experts are on the fence about the acquisition. "There are some really interesting possibilities but also opportunity for them to do it poorly," says Beth Granger, a noted LinkedIn trainer. Granger cites memes and jokes on Twitter such as: Click here to connect with this person and install Windows 10. Still, Granger is bullish on the opportunities for integration between LinkedIn and Microsoft products down the line. "Imagine being in Excel and having a question, and seeing a tab called Learn that takes you to Lynda.com content," says Granger. "Imagine going to a meeting and Cortana telling you details about the people you are meeting with. Imagine using Dynamics CRM, which I would never have considered before, and it could pull all your LinkedIn data right in."
As Granger alludes, Nadella has hinted that the LinkedIn acquisition will provide natural hooks into Microsoft Office software in the near future. One feature that was probably key to the LinkedIn acquisition is the potential for a newsfeed "that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you're trying to complete." Another benefit to the LinkedIn acquisition: Nadella sees a future where the professional platform can become increasingly more intelligent and "feed into" Office 365.
On the earlier point of Cortana, Granger isn't alone in seeing the possibilities. Alyssa Gelbard, founder of career consulting and personal branding firm Resume Strategists, sees the LinkedIn acquisition as "an amazing opportunity to grow Cortana...it could really enrich prep for meetings and interviews and make it all easier and faster and have a lot of helpful/useful information."
Experts believe the acquisition will affect different users in different ways. For average consumers, Granger believes the Lynda.com link within Office 365 will be a significant aspect of the LinkedIn acquisition. Other than that, she suspects Microsoft and LinkedIn will focus on Enterprise first.
In the short term, it seems that the biggest winners were those who held LNKD stock, which rose dramatically at the news. But in the mid-term and long-term, the biggest winners just might be those of you who use LinkedIn on a daily basis.