How the Microsoft Acquisition of LinkedIn Affects EdTech
“Imagine,” dares LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner in an email to the company’s global workforce, “a world where we’re no longer looking up at Tech Titans such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, and wondering what it would be like to operate at their extraordinary scale — because we’re one of them.”
Weiner sent a lengthy message that equal parts explained and consoled his employees about Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn. This is a major change in not only in the general technology industry, but also edtech specifically. The change signals Microsoft’s steady rise to the top of education business, and “Tech Titans” taking over the edtech market.
A little over one year ago, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com, an online education tool that offers thousands of videos on everything from marketing communications to photography. LinkedIn has since developed “Learning Path,” which functions as higher education online courses to help adults learn new skills, or develop ones they need for their careers. Learning Path is the of part the networking site’s initiative to change what LinkedIn’s head of consumer products Ryan Roslansky calls the “flawed educational ecosystem” in an interview at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit. Companies like LinkedIn, Lynda, and now Microsoft are working to change the post-grad landscape of debt-ridden, underemployed young adults.
Microsoft Edu, Microsoft’s education branch, which includes devices, management tools, and media apps to engage classrooms. Prior to the LinkedIn acquisition, Microsoft had a hold on the K-20 market with popular, affordable products like Surface tablets equipped with Office 365. The technology powerhouse also holds Imagine Cup, an annual technology event for students with over 1.65 million participants. Jeff Weiner envisions a future where LinkedIn is involved with all these aspects and drives Microsoft into the higher education market.
“Think about things like LinkedIn’s graph interwoven throughout Outlook, Calendar, Active Directory, Office, Windows, Skype, Dynamics, Cortana, Bing and more,” he writes, offering a peek inside the initial meetings between him and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Weiner dreams of a tech world in which a Microsoft Word user can highlight text on a document, and LinkedIn suggests an expert who can help out with that section of the project. Think Clippy, but a revamped version nearly a decade after its failed launch. Gone are the googly eyes and irritating reminders in the corner of your document. At least, that’s what Weiner and Nadella promise.
Techies displayed mixed reactions to Monday’s announcement. Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn is one of the largest technology industry deals to date, and some critics are weary about the economic intelligence of it. The Economist reports that LinkedIn suffered a net loss of around $165 million in 2015 and has yet to fully recover from the stock market crash.
However, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates stands by Nadella’s costly decision, saying “I certainly think that the value of the two companies combined is greater than the two by themselves, but I love the idea that the market wants us to show that,” in an interview with Bloomberg Technology.
Weiner and Nadella stress the importance of both LinkedIn and Microsoft maintaining their respective core values and culture. In their announcement, they share their excitement about the companies complimenting each other and growing together in the education business and beyond.
Gretchen Kuhsel is a junior journalism student at Emerson College, where she is the assistant lifestyle editor at The Berkeley Beacon. Her work has also been published in various campus magazines and The Connecticut Post. When she’s not writing, she’s spending far too much time online shopping or balancing upside down on her yoga mat.