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Microsoft's $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition could hatch a host of collaboration features for the professional social network, such as document sharing and video calling. But Microsoft stands to benefit, too, by leveraging LinkedIn to boost Microsoft's data analytics and streaming video services.
In a flurry of blogs, after the acquisition was announced, industry experts examined how the LinkedIn acquisition enhances Microsoft Office Graph, which maps the relationships between people, content and interactions in Office 365. William Haskins, an analyst at Wainhouse Research LLC in Duxbury, Mass., wrote that user data from LinkedIn complements Office Graph data.
"When integrated properly, the existing [LinkedIn] graph can provide a valuable profile view for meeting attendees from outside your organization," Haskins wrote. That LinkedIn data can be leveraged beyond meeting details into advertising, Bing searches and expert recommendations.
IT consultant Tony Redmond wrote that a link between Office Graph and LinkedIn could generate new connections among users, such as notifying users of other people with new capabilities or organizational responsibilities that could be of interest.
Redmond wrote that leveraging data gathered from user interactions is something Facebook does well. "Being able to do the same, but based on user interaction with Office and professional affiliations might cut Facebook's At Work initiative off at the knees, at least within the companies that have embraced Office 365," he wrote.
Social network support for streaming video services
The LinkedIn acquisition could give Microsoft's streaming video services a boost. Haskins wrote that Microsoft is expected to expand its Azure Digital Media Services as a development and hosting platform for video-enriched applications. Microsoft could integrate LinkedIn with Azure to make the professional social network a venue for driving traffic and audiences for live and on-demand video.
"This new ability to generate traffic would better position Azure as a competitive platform for this partner-based streaming development," Haskins wrote.
Microsoft could also leverage acquisitions made by LinkedIn. In 2015, LinkedIn acquired online learning company Lynda.com Inc.
"Lynda.com might also deliver value in terms of creating a paid-for route to market for video-based training," Redmond wrote. This would also give Microsoft the ability to quickly update its Office 365 training videos to keep up with the platform's rapid development -- something Microsoft isn't currently doing, he noted.
Assessing the effect on user privacy and control
Amid the LinkedIn acquisition, a central question lingers: How will the deal affect LinkedIn's 433 million worldwide members, particularly in terms of privacy and control?
"The downside of the merger is control of personal information," Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research in Mokena, Ill., wrote in a blog. "It's not hard to imagine LinkedIn users becoming concerned that their profile and connection activities could be mined and sold for sales and marketing activities."
Irwin Lazaranalyst at Nemertes Research
Lazar wrote that alternative professional social networks could arise that would try to provide the connectivity of LinkedIn, but would offer greater control and privacy of user information.
Redmond wrote that he hoped the interaction between LinkedIn and Office 365 data would be optional for users, as not everyone would want their contacts to be accessible by LinkedIn.
He wrote that Microsoft has experienced some negative feedback regarding the personal workload analytics delivered by Delve. A similarly negative reaction could emerge to an integration that tracks and analyzes employees' professional connections.
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