I knew I should have bought those LinkedIn shares.

Early this morning, Microsoft, the dominant player in professional software and cloud services, announced its plan to acquire LinkedIn, the leading professional social networking platform across the world.

Here are some other noteworthy details, according to the official statement:

  • Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share, valuing the transaction at $26.2 billion
  • LinkedIn will continue to act "independently," retaining its distinct brand and culture
  • Jeff Weiner will remain CEO of LinkedIn and report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
  • The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year

"The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world's professionals," says Nadella. "Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics, as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet."

Wow. I just didn't see this one coming.

Of course, it makes sense. Over a year ago, I wrote about LinkedIn's plan to take over the work world with lofty goals that included creating digital profiles for every company in the world and every member of the global work force (three billion people). LinkedIn also aspired to represent every skill required to obtain those jobs, and provide learning development tools to enable members to develop those skills.

The ultimate goal, as stated by Weiner, was the following:

"We want to step back and allow capital, all forms of capital, intellectual capital, working capital, and human capital to flow, to where it can best be leveraged and in doing so, help lift and transform the global economy."

With this new deal, it looks like LinkedIn might just get its wish.

I've read a fair amount of criticism directed at LinkedIn over the past year--and toward Microsoft for much longer. I think that's good. (Everyone can learn from criticism.)

But I think people don't realize how difficult it is to run a company at this scale. Microsoft has over a billion users. LinkedIn has almost half a billion (currently around 433 million, with two new members joining every second).

That gives the old adage "You can't please everyone" new meaning.

What we've seen recently (especially in the past two years) is that both companies have taken exciting steps forward. Steps that will profoundly influence the way all of us work.

For example, with its $1.5 billion acquisition of online training website Lynda.com in 2015, LinkedIn got serious about providing tools for online training and learning. The publishing platform has continued to provide extended reach to countless writers and publishers. And as my fellow columnist John Nemo pointed out just last month, the company recently launched Profinder, a freelancer-for-hire marketplace that matches clients with freelance product and service providers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft seems to have awakened after a long period of hibernation. For years, it seemed that the software juggernaut was simply maintaining the status quo, with very incremental improvements.

But last year saw more cooperation with competitors (remember the Microsoft appearance at last year's Apple event) in the name of increased value, and new products like the Surface Book. And despite being an avid Apple fan, I actually love Windows 10.

Nadella and his team have proven not only that they are ready to adapt, but that Microsoft is again ready to raise the bar for everyone else.

I, for one, am excited to see what these two companies are capable of--once they pool their resources and begin working toward a shared vision.

If only I had bought those shares last week.

Published on: Jun 13, 2016
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