Microsoft says buying LinkedIn will help to address the middle class discontent that saw Britain vote to leave the European Union and America vote to leave politics as we know it behind by electing Donald Trump.
The company has expressed that sentiment in its post announcing the European Commission's approval of its acquisition of LinkedIn.
Europe's interest in the transaction was sparked by fears Microsoft would “integrate LinkedIn into Microsoft Office and combine, to the extent allowed by contract and applicable privacy laws, LinkedIn's and Microsoft's user databases.” Competition regulators were also concerned that only Microsoft CRM users would have access to LinkedIn and that the combined companies would dominate online advertising.
The EC also went back to Microsoft's anti-trust troubles of the late 1990s, by worrying that Microsoft could pre-install LinkedIn on all Windows PCs and freeze out competitors.
The Commission decided Microsoft is such a small CRM player that there's nothing to worry about on that front. It also decided the advertising market would emerge unscathed from the merger.
But on other matters, the EC has extracted four commitments from Microsoft, which describes them as follows:
- We’ll continue to make our Office Add-in program available to third-party professional social networking services. The Office Add-in program enables developers to integrate their services into Microsoft Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel, providing users an enhanced experience using Office. As we continue to improve this program, these improvements will be available to third-party professional social networking services.
- We’ll continue to make promotional opportunities in the Office Store available to third-party professional social networking services.
- We’ll ensure that IT administrators and users can customize their Office experience by choosing whether to display in the user interface the LinkedIn profile and activity information that may be integrated in the future.
- If we develop a LinkedIn application or a tile for Windows PCs and include it in Windows, we’ll allow PC manufacturers to choose not to install them on their Windows PCs in the European Economic Area, or EEA. Similarly, we’ll ensure that users can uninstall the application and tile if they wish. We also won’t use Windows itself to prompt users to install a LinkedIn application, although it can remain available in the Windows Store and be promoted in other ways.
- In the EEA we won’t enter into agreements with PC manufacturers for pre-installation of a Windows LinkedIn application or tile that would favor LinkedIn on an exclusive basis and thereby bar the distribution of competing professional social networking services.
Microsoft's president and chief legal officer Brad Smith says the EC's decision draws a line under the acquisition and that the companies can now get on with mashing themselves up.
Smith also offered an observation that the combined companies will be welcomed by Brexit and Trump voters.
Here's his spiel:
“In June, Satya Nadella and Jeff Weiner, the CEOs of Microsoft and LinkedIn, announced their shared vision for bringing together the world’s leading professional cloud with the world’s leading professional network. Just ten days after they announced this combination, voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. And roughly five months after that, a tumultuous presidential election campaign in the United States came to a close. On both sides of the Atlantic, it has become increasingly apparent that many people feel left out and unable to participate in the economic growth and opportunities created by the rising digital economy.
While technology tools are not a panacea for current economic challenges, we believe they can make an important contribution. Microsoft and LinkedIn together have a bigger opportunity to help people online to develop and earn credentials for new skills, identify and pursue new jobs, and become more creative and productive as they work with their colleagues. Working together we can do more to serve not only those with college degrees, but the many people pursuing new experiences, skills and credentials related to vocational training and so-called middle skills. Our ambition is to do our part to create more opportunity for people who haven’t shared in recent economic growth.”
Microsoft's often articulated a civilising mission as its higher purpose beyond just selling lots of kit. This post looks to take its ambitions to a new level.
If this ambition is fulfilled, the world will owe the company a debt.
But if your correspondent's experience of the network is typical – I get endless anodyne advice from Z-grade pundits, people pretending to be CEOs of major corporations so they can harvest my data and sales people trying to sell me stuff – it's hard to see anyone ending up richer or happier now that Microsoft owns LinkedIn. ®