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Microsoft-LinkedIn deal to benefit Office 365, Dynamics CRM

Microsoft plans to acquire professional network LinkedIn for $26.2 billion to provide a more comprehensive system of information for Office 365 and Dynamics CRM.

Microsoft's $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn is good news for Dynamics CRM and Office 365 users, who will see integration with the company's massive professional network.

The Microsoft-LinkedIn deal, which is expected to close by the end of the calendar year, looks to expand professional knowledge by combining two technology leaders in business applications and relationships.

By making LinkedIn data more available for Microsoft users -- whether it is with widgets embedded within browsers or connections' information synced to contact and email lists -- users will be able to work more efficiently and provide more data for Microsoft and LinkedIn to work with.

"The value of sites like Facebook [and LinkedIn] isn't the actual site, or really the audience itself. It's the activity of that audience," said Wes Miller, research vice president of independent consulting company Directions on Microsoft, based in Kirkland, Wash. "That data drives it, and the more data you have, the more valuable it is, and that loop makes it worthwhile for people to use."

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, outlined in a conference call two ways LinkedIn is expected to be integrated with Microsoft Outlook, Dynamics and Office 365: The company plans to implement Microsoft's machine learning capabilities in users' LinkedIn news feeds, and to use profile information on LinkedIn, integrated into Microsoft's artificial intelligence assistant Cortana, to provide information for upcoming business meetings.

"LinkedIn is the social fabric of Microsoft," Nadella said. "Imagine walking into a meeting and Cortana tells you about people you're meeting and what you need to know about them."

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner spoke on a conference call about the possibilities of combining the professional relationships of LinkedIn's network to the applications in Microsoft, allowing for business professionals to continue developing, as the tools around them constantly change.

"People need access to continuous learning and education, so how can we expand the LinkedIn footprint?" Weiner said. "Imagine that coursework integrated across Microsoft's ecosystem. Integrated alongside productivity apps, like Excel, Word and PowerPoint, will be a tab called 'learning.' In Microsoft products, you will be able to see who you can tap in your network. LinkedIn, Office 365 and Dynamics create value through integration."

The grand hope of the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal is to combine the professional knowledge and data within Microsoft's applications with the institutions, relationships and professional knowledge within LinkedIn to create a global economic graph, according to Weiner.

"The goal is to take a step back and allow capital to flow where [it] can be leveraged," Weiner said. "When you combine Microsoft's corporate graph with LinkedIn's social graph, you can take a leap forward with that information."

Customers yearning for this integration of professional knowledge within their business applications will have to wait, as LinkedIn is expected to remain independent as part of the acquisition agreement.

Microsoft has long had the unspoken desire of becoming the Facebook of business.
Wes Millervice president of research, Directions on Microsoft

"It's an interesting collection of data that will help Microsoft in their ongoing pursuit of a broader social graph," Miller said. "Microsoft has long had the unspoken desire of becoming the Facebook of business."

Miller said he expects LinkedIn to continue business as usual in the short and midterm, citing previous examples of when Microsoft purchased the email company Acompli before turning it into its Outlook app.

"For the near term, they will try and leave it alone," Miller said. "Look at the acquisition of what became Outlook. That team was left autonomous and empowered to drive email clients across the Microsoft ecosystem. The same will happen here."

LinkedIn's team may be able to help Microsoft build up a bigger social media presence, an area in which Miller said the company has been lagging.

"I see LinkedIn driving and eventually become the direction, rather than be immersed into Microsoft," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Nadella during the Microsoft-LinkedIn conference call.

"This isn't about changing the core of LinkedIn; it's about bringing the best of LinkedIn to the best of Microsoft," Nadella said.

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