With the announcement yesterday that Microsoft is acquiring LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, there is a lot of speculation about why.

While many people believe the primary value of LinkedIn is the master database of 433 million professionals and executives, I agree with Grant Feller, who wrote “This is the Real Reason Microsoft Bought LinkedIn” in Forbes.com:

The real value of the site is as a content-publishing platform in which key executives can expand their networks, their influence, their fame, their knowledge, their personas and their opportunities for a better-paid job by providing original content.

But as interesting as it is to speculate on why Microsoft might be making the acquisition, I think it’s more interesting to look forward and think about the potential…

Publishing – Whether you agree with Grant or not, LinkedIn’s publishing platform is likely to grow in importance. Especially if you are able to make content available to targeted Microsoft users (not just LinkedIn users), more people will take advantage of publishing as a way to educate and engage with their target market.

Advertising – LinkedIn has been experimenting with expanding its advertising network. If people using LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content can now reach Microsoft users – not just LinkedIn users – the value of the ads increases substantially. It wouldn’t be surprising if LinkedIn ads also start running on Bing.

Sales Navigator + Dynamics – The combination offers the potential to deliver truly intelligent CRM.

Social identity – Your LinkedIn profile could be used as your sign-in to Office 365, Windows, Skype, Active Directory, and whatever other Microsoft software you happen to be using. Information on your LinkedIn profile could be made available to people who are emailing you or scheduling meetings in Outlook.

APIs – LinkedIn has kept the LinkedIn API locked down, so the only way developers can use it is as proof of identity. Microsoft has a much better understanding of partner programs and how to build an ecosystem around its products. If they bring that influence to bear on LinkedIn, it might finally be possible for developers to create applications that leverage the massive database.

ProFinder – This new offering from LinkedIn that matches freelancers with businesses that have projects looks like it will have staying power, especially when you consider that it gives both companies a stake in the growing contingent worker world.

Intranet – Combine SharePoint with LinkedIn and it’s easy to imagine a corporate Intranet, with org charts, collaboration space, Office, dashboards, and distribution of company news.

What else do you see coming out of the acquisition?

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