Microsoft announced this morning that it will purchase the LinkedIn social network for $26.2 billion in a move that allegedly aligns with the software giant’s productivity focus. But Microsoft is proving that for all the changes at the company, it is not learning the lessons of the past.
Yes, LinkedIn is the only social network focused on productivity in a general sense, or as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls it, “the world’s leading professional network.” LinkedIn is in many ways a public version of functionality Microsoft built into its own Office Delve product, a way to find people with particular expertise.
But LinkedIn is also something quite different: It’s a way for people with a particular expertise to find a new job, a job that will happen outside of their current employment. It is in that way quite contrary to needs of many enterprises, in the sense that they are probably not particularly interested in seeing their valuable employees advertising themselves in an open market.
From a social networking perspective, then, LinkedIn is in many ways the least interesting of these networks. Facebook connects people. Twitter connects people with the world. And LinkedIn? It connects your employees with new jobs elsewhere. (Google+ connects people with silence.)
In a letter to employees, Mr. Nadella basically explains that LinkedIn will be treated like a public cloud version of this Office 365 functionality, so that when an enterprise is looking for expertise, they can look internally and externally.
Doing so certainly doesn’t require Microsoft to spend $26 point whatever billion dollars. It wouldn’t be hard to integrate LinkedIn with Office 365. They’re both cloud services.
Nadella also says that Microsoft wants to accelerate LinkedIn’s growth—in fact, he says it a few times—but here is where Microsoft really blows it. As it did with Skype, to disastrous results, Microsoft will allow LinkedIn to remain independent from the mothership. Its CEO will remain its CEO, though he will join Microsoft’s senior leadership team. All LinkedIn has to do is hit “key performance metrics.”
So lets see. Microsoft is spending four Nokias for a company that will it treat like Skype. Does that sound like a recipe for success to anyone?
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