With today’s announcement of Microsoft’s planned purchase of LinkedIn, it appears that the business oriented social site will soon become a platform for connecting with Redmond’s proprietary products.
Are you ready for MS LinkedIn? Too bad. It’s coming. Today Microsoft announced in a press release that it’s purchasing the social network for $196 per share in an all-cash deal worth $26.2 billion. Although the sale will require shareholder approval, that’s evidently not going to be a problem.
According to a PDF presentation posted by Microsoft, LinkedIn’s board has unanimously recommended the deal and the social site’s board chairman, co-founder and controlling shareholder, Reid Hoffman, is supporting the transaction and intends to vote his shares “in accordance with the Board’s recommendation.” The deal is expected to be completed by year’s end.
The press release further states that Jeff Weiner will be staying on as LinkedIn’s CEO, reporting directly to Satya Nadella, and includes a video (included below) of Weiner and Nadella being interviewed on the ownership change. The social site “will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence,” but that only appears to be true to a degree. One graphic in the PDF presentation shows LinkedIn as a central hub surrounded by Microsoft proprietary products, including all of the components of MS Office, Windows and Skype.
Indeed, Redmond seems to have grand plans for its new property, most of them revolving around using the platform as a sales tool for its proprietary products and services. It’s touting an “Intelligent News Feed” that will evidently be tailored to the user’s LinkedIn network, incorporating Cortana which will “know your entire professional network to connect dots on your behalf” (how will that work for GNU/Linux users, I wonder) and a host of other plans that include the ability to integrate Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM (“and other CRM systems”) to the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, as well as tight integration with Office.
All of these planned new features seem useful enough, but will require users to connect with Microsoft’s proprietary stack. Cortina integration, for example, will most likely require the use of Windows (with some effort probably being made for Mac users), and nowhere is there any indication that LibreOffice or OpenOffice will be able to take advantage of any of the features earmarked for being incorporated into Office 365.
Corporate America, which is already locked-in to Microsoft’s products, will probably embrace the New Microsoft’s vision for LinkedIn and we can expect that business users will begin increasing the scope of their reliance on the social platform — at least it appears that is what Redmond is hoping. The vast majority of consumers will also probably find many of the new features useful.
At the same time, I expect that many free tech advocates will begin abandoning LinkedIn as much as possible as soon as the site begins to push users to take advantage of features requiring the use of Microsoft products, if not before. As one member of an email list I’m on commented upon hearing the news, “Anybody recommend a good alternative to LinkedIn?”
For many of us, that might be easier said than done. Just as we can’t leave Facebook because our personal friends won’t follow us to an alternative, our business contacts aren’t likely to follow us to a new networking site just because we have problems with Microsoft.