Microsoft's recent announcement to purchase LinkedIn for $26.2B has made some noise with everyone asking, "Why would a technology company buy a business-branded social network?"

So far, the best explanation comes from this Microsoft consultant who explains Microsoft's thinking from a strategic, Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) point of view stating, "Ten years ago, people bought companies for their R&D, for their engineering, for their hardware. Five years ago, it was for the users, for the content. Today it’s for the data. Data is king.” — Florin Rotar

Thinking through this a little more deeply, I began to wonder what other strategies Microsoft must be employing to justify building a hefty M&A budget.

Parallel, Interlocking Strategies

It seems like Microsoft is actually conducting parallel strategies aimed at finding new business streams, changing consumer opinion, changing developer opinion and proving it can remain innovative.

Here are a few strategies I can see so far:

Gold in the Cloud

It's pretty clear that cloud business is big business. Between 2011 and 2014, Microsoft earned $1B of worldwide revenue (through Azure services). This is still minuscule compared to Amazon Web Services' staggering $1B/year in profit.

Regardless of whether Microsoft has reached the scale of AWS, what's clear is that cloud-based businesses are the future of software licensing and online advertising.

Wealth in an Ecosystem

"History doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes."
– Mark Twain

Microsoft has always understood the power of ecosystems. Back when they were selling Enterprise Servers, one of their best investments was in fostering a strong developer community. The best tech ecosystems always have a strong developer community.

I sort of see the LinkedIn acquisition as a way for Microsoft to find both potential customers and talent for their ecosystem. It's also a way for them to move beyond failed attempts at acquiring Facebook and integrating Yammer.