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Getting LinkedIn

Getting LinkedIn

by: David Rubinstein

Reactions to Microsoft's Monday announcement about its acquisition of LinkedIn have been met with excitement in the SharePoint and Office 365 community, yet tempered by recent acquisitions (Yammer, Nokia) that did not turn out well.

The US$26.2 billion deal is the third-highest valued deal in the U.S. tech sector since 2001, according to The Mergermarket Group, a media company that provides the financial community with intelligence and analysis. (The largest was Hewlett-Packard's spinoff of its Enterprise group for $33.8 billion.) It's also Microsoft's largest acquisition ever.

The obvious reason for the acquisition is to bring LinkedIn data into Office 365 as another way for workers to collaborate-creating a long-desired professional social network for Microsoft. In fact, Shyam Oza, senior product manager for Office 365 and cloud solutions at Microsoft partner AvePoint, said it would be a big surprise if LinkedIn is not in some way embedded in Office 365 within a year.

In an internal memo from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as reported in an article by Tom Warren on The Verge, Microsoft envisions LinkedIn profiles becoming the central profile populated in Outlook, Skype, Office and even Windows. The newsfeed will stream data to connect workers through shared events such as meetings, notes and e-mail. He said he hopes Microsoft does not try "a wholesale integration,? but would rather see "specific APIs exposed to bring LinkedIn data into Graph, for instance.?

Yet Oza voiced concerns. He said he would like to see LinkedIn remain a separate brand and largely untouched for the millions of users who want it to remain as is. He said he could see Microsoft offering a premium version on the Office 365 side, much in the way there is Skype for Business, or OneDrive for Business.

The fear, he said, is that "People might perceive a Microsoft bias? in LinkedIn. "Should people be talking about job searches when Microsoft can see the conversation? What happens to Microsoft workers getting calls from recruiters? Does Microsoft block those messages, or set that at a lower priority than other messages??

Microsoft has indeed been looking for a social network for a long time, leading first to the Yammer acquisition. Yet after four years and $1.2 billion spent on the acquisition, Microsoft still doesn't have a strong story around Yammer. It's just one more tool in the confused, muddled picture of how workers communicate and collaborate.

Oza, though, blamed much of the problem with the Yammer integration on a clash of cultures more so than a lack of vision. Yammer was a world of rapid iteration and delivery; Microsoft was not. Yammer was in the cloud; Microsoft was not. "The execution of the blending of the companies is what caused problems,? he said. "LinkedIn is more suit-and-tie, so culture-wise there shouldn't be big clashes.?

Lessons learned, Oza said. "I think Yammer is as much of a sore spot to Microsoft as it is to us outside,? he said. "I think here we'll see a much more graceful transition.?

To the larger point, Oza said, "This can't look like the old takeover Microsoft. Under [Nadella], Microsoft has played nice. They must keep playing nice with everyone.?

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