2016-06-20 10:06

Microsoft LinkedIn: a new Office distribution platform?

Will LinkedIn become the lifelong application library and data storage for knowledge workers?

When I read about the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft my first reaction was "this makes no sense". It was not the amount of money ($26 billion) which surprised me but the total lack of congruency. I did not see any relationship between Microsoft and LinkedIn other than both catering to an audience of business professionals.

The funny thing is, I don't give a hoot about Microsoft or LinkedIn. But somehow I could not stop thinking about the rationale for the acquisition. I think Nadella is a smart guy, I think he's turning the ship after Balmer almost ran it into the ground (not $-wise, but culture-wise), so certainly there must be a 26-billion-sized good reason to acquire LinkedIn.

A couple of days ago it dawned on me.

LinkedIn can be turned into a lifelong application library and data storage for knowledge workers.

It starts like this: Students buy MS Office during their college and university years. They purchase their personal software licenses via LinkedIn which they carry forward to their first job.

Their job perhaps requires special security measures which are automatically applied to your Microsoft products once you become an official employee of this company (which, of course, is also on LinkedIn). Microsoft's LinkedIn will offer tools for companies to define and enforce such measures.

If you leave your job, LinkedIn automatically deletes or archives sensitive information based on the company's rule sets. But you keep access to most business email of your former job.

LinkedIn can introduce users to new Microsoft products, based on usage patterns by co-workers and related business units. Instead of having to wait for the CIO to approve a new product you simply license it yourself and off you go.

Users will love the fact that application settings and documents are retained for many years, even when moving to another firm.

The software they use on a daily basis will feel like their own (and if fact, be their own, since they will be the license holder).

Obviously it will become impossible for people to "quit" LinkedIn: who wants to lose 5, 10, 20 years of business email? Who wants to lose standard templates, application settings etc?

Companies will love it too because on-boarding a new employee will likely be facilitated by LinkedIn too.

LinkedIn is the social network for business professionals which Microsoft would never have been able to built themselves. But that's not the most important aspect: few companies can block access to LinkedIn inside their corporate networks since its employees rely on it to reach out to co-workers, customers, leads and potential hires. Microsoft only used to have access to employees of a company through the company's CIO — now they have direct access to all employees.

If they are able to activate employees as active buyers and lifelong license holders this deal may have saved the Microsoft ship from sinking because I doubt Google will be able to achieve the same depth of customer access.

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