Microsoft's acquisition of the social network LinkedIn is not easy to understand. Both companies' chief executives, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Jeff Weiner, have described the $26.2 billion all-cash deal -- one of the largest in tech history -- in the blandest corporate-speak, with memos that sounded as if they were part of LinkedIn's megaboring attempt to create a commentary platform for business celebrities.

Yet this deal is a major play for a market no company has yet captured -- intracorporate communication. Evidently, Microsoft felt it had to move after Facebook made its own grab with Facebook at Work. Ceding the opportunity to a competitor with equally deep pockets, a powerful brand and nimble developers might spell the end of Microsoft's ambitions in the corporate world, which it used to own thanks to Windows and Office, but where its grip has been slipping lately. So Nadella paid an incongruously high price for a company that, on its own, doesn't seem like much of a treat.

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