Is Microsoft trying to steal Apple's WWDC thunder?

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Timing is everything, particularly in business marketing tactics. Surely it's no coincidence that hours before Apple's big developer conference, where questions about iPhone's future and product innovation loom large, that Microsoft announces plans to buy social network LinkedIn. Hehe, how do you like them apples?

The merger will split tech news and analysis coverage this fine Monday and spill over to tomorrow, robbing Apple of the attention it needs now to subdue rising negative perceptions about the future. Global smartphone sales are slowing and iPhone accounts for 65 percent of total revenues. Meanwhile, the fruit-logo company hasn't perceptually lifted the innovation meter since before cofounder Steve Jobs died nearly five years ago. Apple needs to deliver wow and have bloggers and reporters giggle with glee all over the InterWebs.

But their editors' eyes must also turn to Microsoft, which makes a colossal investment that finally gets the company into social networking -- and rightly positioned: Among business users, which remain the core customer market. Meanwhile, MSFT gets some air cover from Apple. Divided newsrooms likely won't give the size and extent of the merger the same attention today they might have otherwise. There are good reasons to wonder.

Microsoft plans to pay $26.2 billion for LinkedIn -- in cash -- an enormous sum in context of the company's past mergers, for what the social network is, and recent rumblings about how much future it has in a Facebook world. No mater how you slice the numbers, LinkedIn is all business-focused.

My headline poses a question to you, and my answer is unequivocally "Yes". Yours?

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