Microsoft and LinkedIn: A match made in uncool heaven

The profitable but staid maker of Windows and productivity tools buys the career-oriented social network. The two companies are made for each other!

Microsoft and LinkedIn: A match made in uncool heaven

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner discuss the acquisition in a video posted on Monday, June 13, 2016.

Credit: Microsoft

Normally, I’m a huge skeptic of big-bucks tech mergers. But I’m 100 percent on board with Microsoft’s $26.2 billion surprise acquisition of LinkedIn, announced earlier this week.

+ Also on Network World: Microsoft scoops up LinkedIn for $26.2B in cash +

Why? Because as I see it, merger success isn’t usually based on technology fit or market positioning or trivia like that. Instead, most of the time it all hinges on the compatibility of corporate culture and values, and Microsoft and LinkedIn are eerily similar those regards—like twin sons from different mothers.

Microsoft hasn’t been cool since the 1980s

Look at it this way: Microsoft is by far the least cool of the big tech/software giants. It’s a product of the PC revolution, not the Internet generation. It’s managed to stay relevant in the era of Google and Apple due to some massive last-minute repositioning, but it still hasn’t figure out mobile (which is where the cool kids—think Facebook—is making bank). It’s Microsoft Azure division has worked hard to grab second place in the hot, hot, hot cloud infrastructure market, but it remains so far behind Amazon Web Services that it needs the Hubble telescope to see the leader. Microsoft trailing Amazon’s technological leadership—Amazon!

Developers joke that Microsoft is where formerly ambitious coders go to trade in their dreams of changing the world for a cushy salary, work/life balance and a profound sense of boredom. The reality is likely quite different, but that disdain is the clear impression you get from a certain set of cowboy coders.

LinkedIn has never been cool

LinkedIn, meanwhile, could be considered the Microsoft of social media. Even as Facebook and Twitter grab all the headlines for their relentless focus on sharing cat pictures and throwing shade, not-even-close-to-cool LinkedIn rumbles along helping people network, find jobs and advance their careers. Not sexy, not generating the obsessive activity that observers and investors like to reward, but—like Microsoft’s products—totally necessary and financially lucrative.

Until universal guaranteed income becomes a real thing, people gotta work. And while your mean tweets, overly political Facebook posts and too-revealing Instagram shots may keep you from getting the job, cultivating contacts and sharing professional expertise on LinkedIn could help you actually land the job.

That’s the thing: Apart from whatever synergies Microsoft and LinkedIn are cooking up (weaving together Microsoft’s professional tools with LinkedIn’s more than 400 million use, who could all be Microsoft customers), the real issue is that both companies—Xbox aside—are focused on helping users be productive and solve problems. Much as we all love connecting with long-lost high-school friends on Facebook and dissing folks on Twitter we’d never dare speak to in real life, our jobs and careers matter, too. And both Microsoft and LinkedIn seem happy to dominate those spheres and leave the fluff to others.

I think they’re going to get along just fine.

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