Microsoft Buys LinkedIn for $26.2 Billion: Get Ready for Software Vendors as Data Owners


Share on LinkedIn

Microsoft surprised pretty much everyone today by announcing a $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn. This is fascinating since Microsoft intersects with LinkedIn in several areas: Dynamics CRM software, Office productivity software, and Bing online advertising. It gives Microsoft access to a rich trove of personal and company information, something it didn’t have before (although Microsoft probably collected more personal and company data than most of us realize).

LinkedIn is primarily a social network with revenue from subscriptions, recruiting services, and advertising. But Microsoft’s announcement suggests it is primarily interested in using LinkedIn’s data for other purposes, such as enhancing the effectiveness of Office and CRM users by showing information about their contacts and potential contacts. This puts Microsoft at the center of the “third party data revolution” (a term I just made up and will probably never use again) that makes detailed information about everyone easily available from commercial sources. This is a trend that’s been clear for some time; it’s a big part of the intent data and predictive data excitement of the past year or two. It’s also one foundation of the MadTech vision I offered last year.

It still feels odd to think of a software company owning a data business, although bought Jigsaw (now in 2010 and Oracle purchased the BlueKai and Datalogix in 2014. The prospect of seamlessly integrating third party data with a company’s own sales and marketing products is intriguing, although neither Salesforce nor Oracle has done much with it. Other vendors like Nimble and HubSpot have done a better job of simplifying access to third party data about an individual or company. Those features are immensely appealing and become even more important in the world of Account Based Marketing, where knowing who to reach at your target customers is everything. Done correctly, integration of LinkedIn with Dynamics CRM could provide a major boost to that product’s utility while creating a new barrier to competition.

We’ll see what happens next: Microsoft might be able to reset expectations among CRM (and Outlook) users for having prospect and company data immediately available. That would force other CRM and marketing automation vendors to follow suit, although it’s hard to imagine them matching the depth of LinkedIn’s data.

If nothing else, this confirms the foundational role of data and data management in marketing and sales technologies.  That’s important because companies that start by planning a stable data layer are best positioned to manage the accelerating changes in decision and delivery systems.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. I agree with your concerns about the usage – but question: Do the companies own or just hold the data?

  2. I’m not sure of the legal details, but believe the terms and conditions of LinkedIn and other social networks give them the ability to use the data pretty much any way they want. I assume that’s subject to basic privacy constraints such as not publishing personally identifiable information. As you know, rules are much tougher in Europe than the U.S.

  3. “Data is worthless if you don’t know how to use it to make money,” said Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Company, reported in an October, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, What is all that Data Worth?

    Microsoft must be betting that it knows, though, as you point out, Salesforce’s and Oracle’s lackluster meander toward revenue rewards doesn’t inspire much confidence. Data valuation has been a difficult subject for FASB (the Financial Accounting Standards Board). Among the questions those wearing green eyeshades are pondering:

    1. Is the time employees spend gathering data an expense or a capital investment?
    2. How should companies estimate the shelf-life of the data they hold?
    3. How should companies track and report changes in the value of their data?

    The five-year asset depreciation schedules and “Sum-of-the-years digits” learned in Accounting 101 are off the table.

    I’m sure that Microsoft has a team of smart accountants that understands the value of LInkedIn’s data for future earnings. But for me, that task has the same complexity as using a fork to pick up a raw egg that has been dropped from ten feet onto a tile floor.

    I wish them all the best. At the very least, I hope Microsoft’s developers will figure out how to improve all the screwed-up “enhancements” that LinkedIn made to their email system.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here