The end game for many technology start-ups is to sell to a large company, or go public to facilitate growth. LinkedIn is hardly a start-up anymore, but it has now done both—going public in 2011, and then selling to Microsoft this year. But it was only last week that Microsoft completed its acquisition of LinkedIn after winning a bidding war with Salesforce.com.
The battle was a heated one, with Salesforce arguing to the European Commission that the acquisition would make Microsoft too powerful in the CRM market. But the battle wasn’t really over CRM – at least, not directly. The stakes were much higher than that. In fact the CRM card was a red herring that Microsoft played to hide what it was actually all about.
Salesforce knew that if Microsoft gains ownership of LinkedIn, “The company will have the ability and incentive to use LinkedIn’s unique dataset to enhance its own products, while preventing competitors from accessing and effectively utilising that same data,” as admitted by Burke Norton, Chief Legal Officer and Chief of Corporate and Government Affairs at Salesforce, in a blog post. “The result will fundamentally change the marketplace in a way that will be harmful to consumers.”
But that argument wasn’t enough to swing the European Commission’s decision towards Saleforce, and Microsoft won.
What impact will this have on professionals? It is currently thought that the integration will have the following short term effects:
- It will become harder to avoid LinkedIn's messages if you use Office or Windows. (Microsoft plans to integrate LinkedIn into its own email and other platforms.)
- LinkedIn's logins and network may be integrated with Microsoft Outlook and Office.
- LinkedIn users will likely be able to draft CV’s in Word, without switching to Office.
- LinkedIn's lookup search tools may be powered by Active Directory, making LinkedIn Learning tools available across Office 365 and the rest of Windows, and sharing ads between the two.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella framed the acquisition as a way of helping professionals transform how they work, realise new career opportunities and connect in new ways. He wrote in a LinkedIn article that Microsoft sees the acquisition as an opportunity to ensure that everyone can benefit from digital technology and the new opportunities created by the digital economy.
The truth is, only time will tell what this actually means, how LinkedIn data will be used and whether there are genuine benefits for professionals (or non-professionals). As with all acquisitions, the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal could indeed create something great with a merging of two incredible companies, or it could be a step too far in ‘integration’, when none was needed.
Either way, we will soon find out.
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