Monday, June 13, 2016

Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

I'm not doing Platform Wars any more. But this seems big enough to deserve a comment. (quoting my Quora answer)
Microsoft has a history of buying fairly big, reasonable tech. brands that OUGHT to offer them an interesting direction to evolve strategically ...and then wasting them by leaving them wither into insignificance.
That's what they did with Skype, which they should have been able to evolve into a messaging app. competing with, and as compelling as, Whatsapp / Telegram / FB Messenger / Snapchat etc. Instead it's fading into obscurity.
They did it spectacularly with Nokia. Who now make almost no smart-phones for no noticeable improvement in Windows Phone sales.
They'll probably do this with LinkedIn.
It’s possible that under Satya Nadella things will be different. But the traditional M$ problem is that it tries to use the new acquisition to prop up Microsoft’s existing brands and strategies (ie. Windows, Office, Azure) rather than allowing the acquisition to suggest new strategies and exploring the new opportunities it brings.
Now LinkedIn itself was sliding into a bit of a decline. I think there was very little vision about what a disruptive, world-changing employment platform could be (eg. Phil Jones' answer to Why hasn't anyone disrupted LinkedIn yet? )
To recap, what if LinkedIn wasn’t just Yet Another Social Network left in the wake of Facebook’s dominance? What if LinkedIn’s “big hairy audacious goal” was something like “to double the world’s income”. (ie. to provide whatever will help its users earn more each year … whether by finding better paying jobs, doing more gigs on the side, being better matched with the right job, identifying and getting whatever training makes them more valuable to the market, learning how to negotiate better etc. etc.) To execute on that mission would put LinkedIn in the same league as Google / Facebook / Apple etc. The moment you think like that, multiple new directions, opportunities, potential income streams etc. simply fall out of it.
Now, is that a possibility under Microsoft ownership? Who knows? Nadella isn’t Ballmer. He, says he’s willing to change Microsoft. But it’s hard to know how big his vision is. Or how much he’s still trapped by the traditional forces and attitudes within Microsoft.
So this is another (and almost the last) chance for Microsoft to buy themselves into the social platform big league. They may be ready to do something interesting. But they squandered an amazing opportunity with Skype. And early talk about how they’re thinking of effectively using the community to sell Microsoft products to and analyze data from isn’t that encouraging.
I’d look for some kind of big insightful statement from Nadella before I get very excited about this.
Right now … the evidence is ambiguous : Read Microsoft CEO’s memo to staff about LinkedIn acquisition

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