It’s been quite a day for Microsoft.
First, the bombshell announcement that Microsoft is buying LinkedIn for $26 billion. Then, Microsoft made its big presentation at the annual E3 Expo, presenting the latest on the convergence between the Xbox One console and the Windows 10 operating system.
This is going to sound weird, but if you take the news in aggregate, the LinkedIn deal and the Xbox presentation tell you everything you need to know about the modern Microsoft of 2016.
Bear with me.
Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has expressed a singular vision for a world where your apps and data follow you around from device to device, so that you can do what you want on the computer, phone, or tablet you want to do it on.
LinkedIn now has a big part to play in that future. A major area of investment for Microsoft Office is the idea of context — apps, like Nadella’s favoured Delve, that know where you are, what device you’re using, and who you’re working with.
Which is to say, LinkedIn has the potential to provide Microsoft Office with a kind of glue, as a single identity for tracking your work and your projects across every Office app on every device.
If you make a change in one app, or work with a coworker on a key project, that relationship will be maintained across the whole Microsoft Office universe. That’s a big boon to Nadella’s vision of apps that go beyond the traditional Office suite.
The Xbox business is actually starting to look at a similar philosophy. Microsoft is working to knock down the differences between playing a game on a Windows 10 PC or an Xbox One console, so you can play whichever game you want on whichever screen you want.
Today, Microsoft announced Xbox Anywhere, a program that lets you buy a game once and own it on both Windows 10 and Xbox One. If you save your game on an Xbox, you can pick it up again on a PC, and vice versa. The same way LinkedIn and Office can keep your professional relationships synced up, Xbox can keep you playing everywhere.
So they’re manifesting in totally different ways. But Microsoft’s master plan of having one seamless experience with all of your data following you from device to device is pretty consistent. And it’s all falling in to place.
Of course, this master plan carries its fair share of dangers. LinkedIn’s data may be valuable to Microsoft, but $26 billion is steep, no matter how you slice it. And it remains to be seen if gamers will embrace the Xbox/Windows 10 mashup.
Still, you can’t accuse Microsoft of lacking ambition. There are worse things.
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