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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

What does Microsoft buying LinkedIn mean for you?


I blinked when I read Microsoft will pay $26.2 billion for LinkedIn. The figure is a 50 percent premium over the recent LinkedIn stock price, but the stock is well below its high of more than a year ago.
Once the hip vanguard of technology, Microsoft has become old line.  A digital General Electric. And one with cash and willingness to take on debt.
The published reports speculate Microsoft will try to integrate the social media platform with its Office products and with its Dynamics customer relationship software.  Sounds like the makings of a 21st century Lotus Notes.  But these things always make sense on paper and in the breathless announcements.
My impression is one of a looming hairball. Microsoft gets dinged for failing in the mobile revolution. It’s had a string of mobile operating systems dating back to the ’90s with a dog called WindowsCE. The tech wags quickly dubbed the semi-functional OS “wince.” Even the expensive acquisition of Nokia didn’t help a lot, although by combining mobile CRM software on its Nokia devices Microsoft has a marketable business platform.
The LinkedIn mobile app is terrible, worsened by the fact that every other time you tap it, it wants to launch a series of steps forcing you to find new people and other things I try to skip through just to read a message. Merging a complicated mobile app with other complicated mobile apps sounds like a recipe for a logarithmic scaling of difficulty.
At the desktop or tablet level, the Microsoft-LinkedIn hookup might work better. LinkedIn houses a lot of information and channels.
I checked with LinkedIn power user Mark Amtower, host of Federal News Radio’s Amtower Off-Center. He runs several popular federal groups on LinkedIn and gives seminars on how to use it to boost business. Never one to mince words, Mark says, “For power users, LinkedIn has been going down for two years.” He complains about over-moderation by LinkedIn staff of managers of groups. And of changes that result in big blobs of messages users are forced to go through.
I share his concern that if Microsoft mixes LinkedIn into Office 365, eventually people will have to become Office 365 subscribers to use LinkedIn.
If it’s mixed into Dynamics, then users potentially become the targets of endless pitches. Although, given what the popular social media platforms have all become, you might not notice anything new.
I would be happy to see Microsoft clean up and simpify LinkedIn’s increasing incoherent user interface before folding it into some other multi-featured environment.
In its news release, Microsoft says, “LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence.” Yeah, well remember that LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner will report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

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