On Monday, social media giant LinkedIn announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion. The deal, still pending regulatory review, is expected to close later this year.
LinkedIn will continue to operate as an independent company, with CEO Jeff Weiner reporting to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
"Regardless of the ups and downs, we've come out the other side knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the best thing for our company," Weiner wrote in a letter to LinkedIn employees. He added that the deal gives LinkedIn a future "where we're no longer looking up at tech titans such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, and wondering what it would be like to operate at their extraordinary scale -- because we're one of them."
The two companies both view the acquisition as a natural fit. That's because they have missions that complement one another.
Microsoft's mission is to "empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more."
LinkedIn's mission is to "connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful."
By combining forces, Weiner says that Microsoft will be able to further empower its customers by using LinkedIn as an integral part of Microsoft's business software ecosystem.
He added: "Think about things like LinkedIn's graph interwoven throughout Outlook, Calendar, Active Directory, Office, Windows, Skype, Dynamics, Cortana, Bing and more."
In a nutshell: the deal combines the massive LinkedIn professional network with Microsoft's professional cloud. The result will be a suite of business solutions that are integrated with a massive database of professionals.
One Profile to Rule Them All
Most Internet users have been online long enough to know that profiles abound. There are Facebook profiles, Twitter profiles, Amazon profiles, and LinkedIn profiles, just to name a few.
That's a problem because some of those profiles are out-of-date and in some cases they contain contradictory information.
Which one is the right one?
That's a question that the acquisition is meant to answer.
How? With the aid of LinkedIn.
Microsoft wants to use a person's LinkedIn profile as the "go to" source for information about the user. Think of it as Gravatar with much more information.
The company plans to integrate LinkedIn profile information with its suite of software products, including Skype, Outlook, and Office. The end result: consistent user information across a wide variety of solutions.
An Intelligent Newsfeed
LinkedIn currently offers a newsfeed, but it's tough for many professionals to sort through the noise in their feeds to find information that's truly helpful. The acquisition will help change that.
The companies want to integrate the LinkedIn feed with various Microsoft products in such a way that users will receive relevant content based on their work circumstances and schedules.
For example, if the user's Outlook calendar shows an upcoming meeting about SEO, his or her newsfeed would be populated with relevant articles about SEO. Similarly, if the person is working on a Java development project, the feed would show articles related to Java development.
The idea is to integrate the social benefits of LinkedIn with the productivity benefits of Microsoft technology.
A Smarter Assistant
In case you weren't aware of it, Microsoft has its own digital assistant software called Cortana (Google also just announced one called Google Assist). The company expects LinkedIn to make Cortana even more useful.
How? The companies are vague on that at the moment, but the objective is that at some point in the future "Cortana will also know your entire professional network to connect dots on your behalf so you stay one step ahead."
Maybe the assistant will remind users of upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
Of course, with a merger of this size, there's likely to be much more to it than that.
Remember, Microsoft has its own CRM software called Dynamics CRM. Its chief competitor is Salesforce, which Microsoft apparently tried to purchase last year.
That deal fell through, but Microsoft might get a distinct competitive advantage over Salesforce thanks to the LinkedIn acquisition.
The companies believe that in the future, businesses will move from selling to social selling. That's why Microsoft will integrate Dynamics CRM with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, giving users actionable insights and the ability to forge stronger relationships with customers and clients.
And again, it's a combination of productivity with social networking. It's designed to accelerate results and put cash in the bank faster.
The problem now, according to both companies, is that organizations have limited means to understand the capabilities, experiences, and specialties of team members. By joining forces, Microsoft and LinkedIn can solve that problem as well.
That's because LinkedIn has the data and network information for hundreds of millions of professionals while Microsoft has the platform and infrastructure to analyze that data to provide actionable intelligence.
The companies are offering a pair of promises. First, they want to give leaders the necessary insight about their talent by answering questions like: who they are, where they're from, and where they'll go next.
Second, they say they'll also provide information about employees' effectiveness by revealing where they spend their time and who they collaborate with.
Undoubtedly, there will be more promises offered as a result of the acquisition. What's been said by both companies so far, though, is promising.
"Today is a re-founding moment for LinkedIn," said co-founder Reid Hoffman. "I see incredible opportunity for our members and customers and look forward to supporting this new and combined business."