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Can Microsoft leverage LinkedIn’s Platform?

Interesting news about LinkedIn today. Seems Microsoft is acquiring another gateway into the corporate world to strengthen their hold on office productivity and connectivity.

Could an Outlook integration speed business connections? Could Dynamics add a new dimension to CRM intelligence? Sure. But that’s just scratching the surface, and it’s making bold assumption about whether Microsoft can utilize LinkedIn’s platform effectively and that LinkedIn will thrive under the Microsoft umbrella. Based on the track record Redmond has established with previous acquisitions that’s a tall order.

It’s no secret LinkedIn leaves a lot to be desired in the user experience department. Listing only the most egregious issues with the UI a bizarre interaction patterns would take many more words than I’m willing to tap out on this small screen. Suffice it to say, it’s one of the least delightful experiences among large-scale social networks.

Microsoft isn’t exactly known for their prowess with pleasing experiences, either. The interface of the Office suite is held prisoner by the vast numbers of enterprise users who will complain quite loudly if any ambitious experience designer tries to move the cheese. Knowing this, a betting man would say LinkedIn won’t get easier to use any time soon.

A gap in the market?

Assuming LinkedIn stagnates (like Skype) there will be an increasing gap opening among savvy business users who become more and more frustrated by a ham-handed LinkedIn UI. Where will they go?

Nowhere yet. Unless and until Facebook decides to enter the fray. Hypothetically, Facebook could “flip a switch” and turn on business features that would make LinkedIn look like a toddler trying to tie a Windsor knot. All the baseline mechanics are in place, they wouldn’t need to change much.

Is it a stretch? Sure. But we might just see a new player in the professional networking space soon. And it could happen faster than Microsoft can close the books on the LinkedIn deal.

What do you think?