Microsoft acquires LinkedIn: The Cortana Connection

If you think of LinkedIn as a social network or an online recruitment service, then you may well be scratching your head about why Microsoft would spend more on it than it has on any other acquisition. But consider that Microsoft has a graph that covers how you’re connected to people by email, documents, messages, meetings and address books, while LinkedIn has a graph that covers jobs, skills, colleagues, and professional connections. That’s two separate sets of information that would be much more useful together.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has already talked about how the Microsoft Graph and the Office Graph are some of the company’s most valuable assets. Think about what you could get by combining those with the graph that represents the professional networks of your employees and partners and adding machine learning that can pick out who and what is actually relevant to you in the sea of all the people and resources you’re connected to.

Dion Hinchcliffe, chief strategy officer at social business consulting firm 7Summits notes the “sheer amount of relationship data that both [Microsoft and LinkedIn] contain in their respective customer graphs. Together, they likely form the largest such dataset for business users in the world.”  

“Wisely integrating this data could give them near-unbeatable market advantages by applying analysis on this data to help customers perform better, while giving them the leading source of data insight into business relationships. Used well by Microsoft, this relationship data could be used to build the next-generation of industry-leading, data-driven prescriptive products to boost key corporate functions such as performance management, sales, recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and operational collaboration.”

Microsoft is likely to start small. The most basic benefit could be a unified, self-updating address book; you can get someone’s contact details from LinkedIn today by connecting the service to Outlook, but that’s rather basic data scraping that doesn’t update their details as they change jobs. Or you might not even need an address book: Imagine typing someone’s name and having Outlook suggest the email address for a John Smith who works at the company you had a meeting with yesterday, even if he wasn’t listed as one of the meeting attendees, because Outlook can look at both your calendar and the professional network for the person you did meet with, who referred you to a colleague named John Smith without giving you his contact details.