You'll read a lot in the coming days about Microsoft's big Facebook investment, about the importance of it finally beating Google in a head to head competition, and about the great boost it gives Microsoft's grand but as -yet unfulfilled online advertising ambitions. You'll also no doubt see the justification for Microsoft valuing Facebook at $15 billion put this way "$250 million is walkingaround money for Bill Gates & Co. For that money they would have valued Facebook at $100 billion to get the deal."
That's all true, but it's iincomplete. Probably the biggest reason Microsoft pushed so hard to win an investment in Facebook is that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have been obsessed with the power of online identity for more than a decade. They've been trying for seven years to make that idea work with Microsoft Passport Facebook, meanwhile, has taken that dream and has made it reality in less than four.My Facebook profile increasingly is who I am online, and I like it because I, not some faceless corporation, created it. Facebook profiles aren't perfect, mind you; but they are the closest any company has come to solving that very difficult problem. I know from talking to folks at Microsoft that getting a piece of an asset like that - even at a $15 billion valuation - is to them one of the best investments of all time.