Microsoft finally links up with LinkedIn, but with strings attached

After showing LinkedIn off to its mates, Microsoft has been told it’s a keeper, and that it can officially get its merge on.

Tim Skinner

December 7, 2016

3 Min Read
Microsoft finally links up with LinkedIn, but with strings attached

After showing LinkedIn off to its mates, Microsoft has been told it’s a keeper, and that it can officially get its merge on.

Back in June, Microsoft took LinkedIn on a $26 billion date, in an attempt to woo it and its shareholders. Unsurprisingly, the professional social media site was pretty impressed, and wanted to take the relationship further.

While both parties were keen, the biggest step in allowing the relationship to truly blossom was for Microsoft to get approval from its mates. This meant it had to be pretty honest with the European Commission, and the two of them have always had a bit of a turbulent relationship, but nonetheless it’s important for Microsoft to get the EC’s thumbs up.

So Microsoft paraded LinkedIn around like a bit of a trophy wife/social media site for a bit, while the European Commission had a bit of a think. EC has always been known for taking its time with anything involving a decision, but on this occasion it came out with a relatively prompt response – just a short six months this time around.

Anyway, enough metaphors. The EC said there were two main areas of concern surrounding the acquisition of LinkedIn and whether Microsoft could end up shutting out CRM competitors.

Firstly, it wanted to make sure that LinkedIn’s existing sales intelligence customers wouldn’t be obliged to purchase Microsoft CRM systems. It concluded “that while the customer base of the two products does overlap, LinkedIn’s product is one of several on the market and does not appear to be a ‘must have’ solution.”

Secondly, the Commission said it didn’t want to see Microsoft denying competitors access to the full LinkedIn database, which would have a knock on effect on developing advanced customer relationship management functionalities. It again concluded that access to the full LinkedIn database is not essential to successfully compete in the market.

The Commission did have a couple of other concerns so gave the relationship its blessing with a couple of strings attached. Microsoft offered a series of commitments in return, including:

  • “Ensuring that PC manufacturers and distributors would be free not to install LinkedIn on Wndows and allowing users to remove LinkedIn from Windows should PC manufacturers and distributors decide to preinstall it.

  • “Allowing competing professional social network service providers to maintain current levels of interoperability with Microsoft’s Office suite of products through the so-called Office add-in program and Office application programing interfaces.

  • “Granting competing professional social network service providers access to “Microsoft Graph”, a gateway for software developers. It is used to build applications and services that can, subject to user consent, access data stored in the Microsoft Cloud, such as contact information, calendar information, emails etc. Software developers can potentially use this data to drive subscribers and usage to their professional social networks.”

Microsoft says the Commission’s blessing was the final legal hurdle that needed to be cleared, and can now complete the deal in the coming days.

“Today, the European Commission announced that it has cleared the acquisition,” wrote Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer on the company’s blog. “As a result, we’ve now obtained all of the regulatory approvals needed to complete the acquisition, and the deal will close in the coming days. The approval in Brussels follows similar reviews and clearances in the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. In each country and in a number of others, we’ve had the opportunity to review our combination with government officials and regulators in considerable detail.”

Now that it has woken up the morning after the $26 billion date the night before, Microsoft will be hoping it hasn’t just suffered a massive case of beer goggles.

About the Author(s)

Tim Skinner

Tim is the features editor at, focusing on the latest activity within the telecoms and technology industries – delivering dry and irreverent yet informative news and analysis features.

Tim is also host of weekly podcast A Week In Wireless, where the editorial team from and their industry mates get together every now and then and have a giggle about what’s going on in the industry.

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