We were surprised to see that several of the reasons given for Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn relate to coworking.
At a very high level both Microsoft and LinkedIn execs are explaining the main deal driver is the opportunity of combining productivity applications and networking.
Key quote from MSFT's CEO's memo to employees on the deal:
"Think about it: How people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done and ultimately find success requires a connected professional world. It requires a vibrant network that brings together a professional's information in LinkedIn's public network with the information in Office 365 and Dynamics."
An even more interesting quote comes from the memo LinkedIn's CEO sent to employees:
"Leveraging our subscription capabilities to provide opportunities to the massive number of freelancers and independent service providers that use Microsoft's apps to run their business on a daily basis."
Back to MSFT's CEO on a LinkedIn powered MS Office potentially helping to connect companies to external talent:
... Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete.
So it seems pretty clear at least part of the reasoning behind this merger is to create products and services that improve independent worker productivity and networking opportunities. The firms also seem to recognize the growing need for tools that support blended teams of independent workers and traditional corporate employees.
Coworking's main value proposition is increasing member productivity and networking opportunities. They are also places where workforce blending occurs naturally.
While there are other reasons for this deal, it's clear that both firms recognize that independent work and blended teams are becoming increasingly common.
Recognition of these changes in how work is done by Microsoft and LinkedIn means this merger is good news for coworking on several levels:
1. Microsoft and LinkedIn's recognition that blended workforces, independent workers and networking with externals are key pieces of the future of work will increase the broader acceptance of these shifts, especially with large corporations. This will lead to more corporations viewing coworking as part of the future of work.
2. The combined firms will no doubt come up with new tools and capabilities that will make it easier and more effective to collaborate in blended workgroups of company internals and externals. This will improve the productivity and efficiency of those working in coworking spaces.
3. The broader acceptance of this shifts and the advent of new tools will lead to more independent workers and micro businesses. These firms will need workplaces and will increasingly gravitate to shared workspaces.
This merger is yet another example of the trends and forces changing the global economy and how and where work is done - the same forces that are driving the growth of coworking.