This byline by Infer’s Vik Singh was originally published on VentureBeat.
Last week, Microsoft stunned the tech world with the largest ever software acquisition – the purchase of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. While early news coverage has addressed plans to keep LinkedIn independent, there’s been little discussion about what exactly the two companies will do together. As someone who’s entrenched in the LinkedIn and Microsoft ecosystems, I thought I’d share four exciting products this acquisition makes possible:
1. Redefined business email
The quickest and broadest impact Microsoft can make with LinkedIn is to redesign its Outlook interface. The companies could easily bring LinkedIn insights, profile photos, etc. into the email experience (similar to whatRapportive offers today but with a seamless, actionable approach). Outlook could even show recent updates and thought leadership pieces from a particular profile as talking point suggestions to automatically populate in an email when selected.
Microsoft could also add automated email filtering and prioritization features with folder recommendations that improve email productivity. Imagine if you could get emails that meet certain criteria — say they come from a particular job title and are second-degree connections with at least 500 connections themselves — to stick in the top of your inbox until they receive your attention.
2. Universal identity
There’s no doubt that LinkedIn’s biggest asset is its social graph with data about virtually everyone in the business-to-business (B2B) world. Ask any salesperson — it’s the business data they trust the most. Social proofing goes a long way. More importantly, when someone moves from one company to another, their LinkedIn identity remains intact. By rethinking the sense of a “user” in theMicrosoft Graph (a focus at the company’s Build 2016 developer conference a few months ago) around their LinkedIn profile, Microsoft could capture more activities about that individual from before and after they joined their current company.
As a result, the Microsoft Graph would become richer, blending LinkedIn information and updates with corporate activities like emails, calendar events, etc. Companies could also leverage LinkedIn credentials for single sign on (albeit there are enterprise security challenges here). This would ultimately be a better experience, because rather than needing new credentials every time you start a new job, you could use the login you already remember (and won’t forget, as LinkedIn will always be a key part of your career). We might even see an evolution in messaging, and the approach of sending emails to corporate addresses that may no longer be valid will become old school. Instead, Outlook integration could make sending messages to each other’s LinkedIn accounts feel seamless.
LinkedIn’s social graph could also spruce up Microsoft’s bot framework, which got a lot of attention at the Build conference as well. More apps that enable personalized, compelling conversations on top of Microsoft platforms would help accelerate the company’s “conversation-as-a-platform” strategy and boost adoption and lock-in for Microsoft’s cloud platform. If the social graph was hosted in the Azure Marketplace and offered convenient API hooks that played nicer with Microsoft’s platforms, developers would want to host their apps on Azure.
For example, a developer could build a bot that analyzes email activity (via the Microsoft Graph), as well as which employees in the company are updating their LinkedIn profiles, and then models that data with Azure Machine Learning to notify managers which of their employees are likely to churn. Of course, this raises major privacy issues that Microsoft and LinkedIn would need to address. Protecting users’ privacy is paramount for a consumer service like LinkedIn that touts “members first,” and this will get more challenging as it moves into the enterprise space.