LinkedIn as Microsoft's next big identity play

LinkedIn as Microsoft's next big identity play

There's been a lot of speculation about what Microsoft hopes to get out of it's $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn. There's a lot of potential synergies, from Microsoft's certifications and skills paired with LinkedIn endorsements and LinkedIn-owned Lynda's certification and classes.

A somewhat tongue-in-cheek post on Postlight outlines 9 things Microsoft could do with the company, which has professional information on roughly 500 million members, ranging from integrating LinkedIn ads with data culled from Office 365 (Someone slacking off on Excel? Maybe it's time to suggest a new job.).

When thinking about the purchase, I keep thinking about Microsoft's decision to pass on trying to acquire Slack. Slack, ostensibly a workplace chat program not much different on paper to Yammer or Lync, has become wildly popular among many businesses and has made clear that its ultimate ambition is to become the identity layer for business.

As (if?) services move away from apps and into bots and assistants across platforms, identity becomes increasingly important. I think the LinkedIn purchase could pay off in a number of ways, but what makes it worth the massive investment is the hedge against potential competitors to come in and upend the Active Directory dominance of enterprise identity.

Microsoft has been managing that transition well, particularly as it encourages adoption of Office 365 and Azure services, but I purchasing a professional network at LinkedIn's scale gives them massive insight into not only trends and a massive wealth of professional data, but another potential angle into business identity and user management should that strategy falter.

Making services universally available to the right people at the right time will be critical to securing adoption in the future. Microsoft's LinkedIn purchase gives them another road to that goal.

Agree? Disagree? Have your own theory about why Microsoft bought LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments. 

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