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With EU Approval, Path Cleared for Microsoft-LinkedIn Deal

UPDATE, 12/8: Microsoft announced that it has officially closed its acquisition of LinkedIn. The original story follows.

Microsoft's planned $26 billion acquisition of enterprise social networking site LinkedIn has cleared its final regulatory hurdle.

The deal received approval from the European Union on Tuesday, Microsoft announced, clearing the way for it to be finalized in the next few days.

The approval is a blow to the acquisition's objectors, notably Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, who filed objections with both U.S. and EU regulators. Benioff, whose own attempt to acquire LinkedIn was outbid by Microsoft, raised concerns that Microsoft would lock out rival social networking services using its large Office and Windows market share.

Before clearing the deal, the European Union last month sought some concessions from Microsoft, which had reportedly offered compromises. Microsoft President Brad Smith outlined the key commitments the company will maintain for at least five years, including:

  • Continuing to make its Office add-in program available to third-party professional social networking providers, which will let developers integrate those services into Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

  • Maintaining programs that allow third-party social networking providers to promote their services in the Office Store.

  • Allowing IT pros, admins and users to customize their Office configurations by letting them choose whether to display LinkedIn profile and activity information in the user interface when Microsoft provides those future integrations, as is anticipated.

  • Ensuring that PC manufacturers aren't required to install new LinkedIn apps or tiles in the European Economic Area (EEA). Likewise, Microsoft is promising not to hinder users from uninstalling the apps and tiles. Microsoft also said it won't use Windows itself to prompt users to install a LinkedIn app, though it'll remain in the Windows Store and customers may be prompted in other ways to use it.

In the EEA, Smith also said that Microsoft has agreed not to form agreements with PC makers to preinstall LinkedIn exclusively, thereby blocking competitors.

"We appreciated the opportunity to talk through these and other details in a creative and constructive way with the European Commission," Smith noted in Microsoft's announcement.

With the deal having cleared approval in Europe, Smith said Microsoft is ready to move forward.

"Microsoft and LinkedIn together have a bigger opportunity to help people online to develop and earn credentials for new skills, identify and pursue new jobs and become more creative and productive as they work with their colleagues," Smith noted. "Working together we can do more to serve not only those with college degrees, but the many people pursuing new experiences, skills and credentials related to vocational training and so-called middle skills. Our ambition is to do our part to create more opportunity for people who haven't shared in recent economic growth."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.