Will Microsoft buy Netflix and LinkedIn?

By Preston Gralla

A new study from IDC predicts that next year Microsoft might buy both Netflix and LinkedIn, in an attempt to cash in on the IT industry's "next dominant platform" -- the convergence of mobile computing, social networking, cloud services, and big data analytics. The match with Microsoft might not be perfect, but it's certainly a better bet than buying part of Yahoo.

In a new report, Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC, predicts that the platform built on mobile computing, cloud services, social networking, and big data analytics will become what he calls the "3rd Platform." He claims that spending on the technologies is growing at 18% per year, and that spending on it "is expected to account for at least 80% of IT spending growth between now and 2020."

Next year, he says, will make or break companies trying to dominate the platform. In a press release about the report, he says:

"The industry's shift to the 3rd Platform will accelerate in 2012, forcing the industry's leaders to make bold investments and fateful decisions. Companies like Microsoft, HP, SAP, RIM, and others -- including Apple -- will face 'crossroads moments' in 2012. By the end of the year, we should have a good idea which vendors will -- and won't -- be among the industry's leaders at the end of the decade."

Why would Microsoft buy Netflix? He says:

"Look for Microsoft to buy a content/media cloud, like Netflix, to provide a marketplace for its apps and content."

Why would Microsoft want LinkedIn? Gens writes:

"Social networking technologies -- especially where they are being accelerated by mobile technologies -- will be recognized as a mandatory component in every major enterprise IT vendors' strategy. As a result, IDC expects a number of major IT vendors to make 'statement' acquisitions in social business while others continue to expand their community platforms. Companies like LinkedIn, Spigit, BrightIdea, Attensity, and Lithium are logical acquisition targets for Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.

A LinkedIn acquisition makes a good deal of sense. As Facebook shows, social networking has begun to replace search as the Internet's dominant technology, and puts its tentacles into every part of people's lives. People increasingly use it not just to find friends, but to find information, reviews, entertainment and more -- everything that search used to do. It would be a way for Microsoft to do an end-around Google search.

I'm not convinced, though, that a Netflix purchase is in the cards. Netflix's business has been rocky for months because of mis-steps, and beyond that, people don't turn to it for apps and non-video content. Building an app store directly into Windows can serve the same purpose. If the price is right, buying Netflix might make sense. But I don't expect the price to be right.

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