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Science & Technology

Microsoft To Buy Tech Giant LinkedIn For $26.2 Billion

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Microsoft surprised the tech world today by placing a massive bet on the social networking site LinkedIn. The software giant said it is buying the career-focused site for $26.2 billion. The deal is the largest acquisition ever for Microsoft and one of the biggest in the industry's history. In today's All Tech Considers, NPR's Aarti Shahani reports on Microsoft's push into the connected workplace.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: First let's talk about the business news, and then let's delve into what it could mean, practically speaking, for you and me at work. On a call with investors, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella rattled off the deal's specifics.

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SATYA NADELLA: Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction.

SHAHANI: That 196 per share is 50 percent above what LinkedIn stock was worth on Friday, so Microsoft is paying a lot.

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NADELLA: Reid Hoffman has stated his full support for the transaction.

SHAHANI: Hoffman being the much-revered founder of LinkedIn. The two companies entered talks about the deal just this past February. They came to an agreement pretty quickly and got their respective boards to bless it all under the radar. They kept it impressively quiet until this morning, that is.

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NADELLA: And we expect this transaction to close by this calendar year.

SHAHANI: Linkedin has come under scrutiny. In 2015, the number of people using it didn't grow that much. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner assured investors his platform has north of 433 million members, and...

JEFF WEINER: Worth calling out there - China remains our fastest growing and not surprising given the size of the addressable opportunity there.

SHAHANI: That's a jargony a way of saying 1 in 5 of the world's knowledge workers and students on a professional track lives in China. And while U.S. tech companies constantly fret over how to penetrate that country, LinkedIn is there. Regulators in the U.S. have to approve the deal. Microsoft's top lawyer, Brad Smith, says he's confident it'll happen.

BRAD SMITH: This merger is what antitrust lawyers would term highly complementary. There's not any significant overlap between the products and services of the two companies.

SHAHANI: And therein lays the potential. Each company already dominates the, quote, unquote, "productivity marketplace." But they don't already work together in a seamless way. Right after the investor call, the CEOs of both companies explained to NPR what that could look like. Microsoft's Nadella...

NADELLA: So for example, today I go every day to the LinkedIn feed, and I already get a lot of information. It knows me. It knows my job. It knows my company. It knows my industry.

SHAHANI: Now just imagine if that newsfeed talked to your Outlook calendar, if it knew all the meetings you were going to have in the next month, the customers you'd see.

NADELLA: And it lit up news articles of those customers.

SHAHANI: That's an example of efficiency, saving you the trouble of having to go to look things up yourself. The greatest technologies change human behavior, our relationship to the world and each other. Asked to talk about that - the things we may not already do that the new joint team is dreaming up - Nadella brings up the Microsoft personal assistant called Cortana.

NADELLA: Just imagine a world where this wakes up just before I enter a new meeting with people I've never met before.

SHAHANI: And Cortana is smarter because she has access to LinkedIn, so she can tell you.

NADELLA: Oh, wow, you went to school with this person, or, you worked at the same company. One of your colleagues at my - in your company, in fact, knows this person.

SHAHANI: At a minimum, we'll be better at feigning familiarity, and maybe, just maybe, we'll uncover deep, real-life connections faster. Weiner points out a brand new way to think about the help tab in PowerPoint or Excel. Maybe you used to go there for tips on exporting a file. Once Microsoft's Office 365 is integrated with your social network, it'll mean another kind of help.

WEINER: The ability to connect with people in your network who can help with your question, the ability to connect with freelancers who are experts in that area.

SHAHANI: LinkedIn shares surged after the deal was announced, and Microsoft shares dipped down. Aarti Shahani, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.