Why? Well, aside from Cramer's musings about "cloud strategy" LinkedIN, a silicon valley based social network, focused on building and maintaining business relationships, and has a few key features that can help the Redmond technology giant:
- Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIN has paying users rather than relying solely on advertisers.
- A base of users which are constantly sharing information about what makes them money
- An ungodly amount of data on businesses eager to share information on how they succeed
- A human resources recruiting tool that allows them the inside track on talent like none-other.
It occurs to me that by using MS's Cloud services, mining LinkedIN data can lead MS to the inside track on innovative and even disruptive emerging companies. This would allow their strategy teams to identify opportunities for (1) lucrative partnerships and (2) promising investments. Despite the incredible cost of this acquisition,** such actions can lead MS to some very lucrative VC and strategic partnership concerns in the future, and that's very, very exciting.
MS has had some mixed success with recent, large acquisitions. While Skype (2011 for $8.5 billion) seems to be doing fine, Nokia (2013 for $7.2 billion) turned into a disaster, as did their earlier attempt at mobile, Danger (2008 for $1/2 billion). In the online ad services game, which LinkedIN ties to, MS has had pretty poor success. Their earlier push for a presence in this market took the form of a 2007, $6.3 billion acquisition of aQuantive, the parent company of digital ad agency Razorfish owned by Publicis Group and Atlas Solutions, an adserver now owned by Facebook. MS wasn't able to make the subsidiary work and took a $6.2 billion write down of the acquisition in 2007 before selling the pieces off to the above-mentioned companies.
The LinkedIN acquisition also allows something else-- an ability for MS to expand it's deterministic unique identifiers of online activity. While LinkedIN will remain independent for now, MS will certainly add the user data to its existing Microsoft Account user interaction data and perhaps eventually combine the two, following users from recreational activities like gaming on Xbox and home video streaming, to their workplace activities like using LinkedIN and MS office. This means less tracking by less accurate, probalistic tracking identifiers like browser cookies, wifi netowrks, IP address tracking.
We'll be watching this closely.
**looks like $2+ billion over the current LinkedIN market cap of $24+ billion.