Dear Commons Community,
Earlier this week, it was announced that Microsoft had purchased LinkedIn, the business networking site with over 430 million users. Randall Stross, a professor of business at San Jose State University, has an op-ed piece in the New York Times this morning bemoaning this development because it will integrate your Microsoft software products including Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) with the LinkedIn community. Here is an excerpt:
“IF Microsoft has its way, the vast membership of LinkedIn, the business networking site with more than 433 million members, will be instantly available to you while you use Microsoft products like Outlook or Skype. How many of LinkedIn’s members do you want to consult while also using Excel or typing away in Word? Microsoft is betting it’s a lot; this is part of its rationale for its $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, announced on Monday.
The companies’ chief executives, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn, explained their reasons for the deal in a PowerPoint presentation distributed to investors. In the center of a graphic titled, “A professional’s profile everywhere,” was a picture of an anonymous LinkedIn “professional” with arrows pointed outward to seven Microsoft products.
Outlook and Skype were two of these, and the usefulness of bringing in information from LinkedIn to those applications is pretty clear — you could put faces to the annoyingly persistent invitations from strangers on LinkedIn — if a little underwhelming.
But there were also arrows to Windows, to PowerPoint, to Excel and, most surprisingly, to Word. I’m not a Microsoft shareholder myself, but I am one of the 1.2 billion users of Microsoft Office, and I was baffled to see my workhorse word-processing software show up in the rationale for this deal.
Mr. Nadella supplied one explanatory clue in an email that he sent to Microsoft employees. “This combination will make it possible for new experiences,” he wrote, such as “Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete.” He went on to predict that such experiences would “get more intelligent and delightful.”
“Delightful” is not the first adjective that comes to mind here, or even the 10th. If I’m working in Word, I can’t see why I’d welcome the intrusion of even a close friend, let alone a bot telling me about a stranger pulled from LinkedIn’s database.”
In a joint conference call with Mr. Weiner on Monday, Mr. Nadella spoke of “social selling” and the “Microsoft graph,” the latter of which Mr. Weiner immediately renamed the “corporate graph.” That, in turn, is to be mated with LinkedIn’s “professional graph,” producing a new thing, “the world’s first economic graph.”
Microsoft’s and LinkedIn’s “graphs” will be connected, Mr. Nadella said, and “that’s when the magic starts to happen in terms of how digital work gets completed.” What Mr. Nadella fails to see is how extending LinkedIn’s “social fabric” to Word will kill the magic, not speed it up.”
Professor Stross makes a valid point mainly because in its history, Microsoft has proven it does not mind intruding on its customers and forcing (or at least annoyingly dudging) them to use its products.