Sunday, February 3, 2008

Microsoft and Yahoo! -- Stay on Target?

We Microsofties and Yahoos just entered some interesting times. Thank goodness we can take a break from talking about Win7 M1 leaks for a while. And thanks for the quality of comments in the previous post.

(Update: Google just posted about Yahoo! and Microsoft: Yahoo! and the future of the Internet - things are going to get real interesting.)

Here's a check-in on what TechMeme looked like at the end of the day on Friday the first. I'm not even going to begin to try to point to interesting articles: there is an abundance. Most cluster around "two wrongs don't make a right." Some are extreme in how bad an idea this is, and others are extreme in how good an idea this is. I like those that bring up the spirit of competition, saying that the combined entity would give a serious option to Google (which would help with prices) and that it would keep Google sharp and competitive (good for Google fans).

I've spent time checking in with various people I know to hear their opinion about the hosti- er - unsolicited offer and how it might impact them.

(I found out if you really want to piss some people off, send them an email with snarky Yahoo! questions. They've gone through disclosure and, man, they don't want to do that again. And I guess neither do I. So, no more electronic Y! trail there. Word to the wise.)

Reactions from most Microsofties: talk to me in a year.

No one anticipates anything happening by the end of this year, between the additional financial courting that might happen between Yahoo! and other suitors and then the subsequent complicated international regulatory phase. During a US election year, to boot. Here Nellie was getting bored and trawling through Office protocols. Consider this an early Valentine, Ms. Kroes. Mmmm-wha!

There's no way this is happening fast. Microsofties in groups most affected by a Yahoo! acquisition are plowing ahead, course unchanged, for the foreseeable future. No thoughts around brand or collaboration or nada. "Stay on target." Uh-huh.

Most engineers, as expected of engineers, see all the problems and that it's going to be a staggering mess, let alone that there are things that Yahoo! does way better than us and that our stuff should be dropped. Strategic optimists and those looking for a promotion will rebrand it as a synergistic opportunity to align our technological assets into a virtuous, hyper-competitive cycle to benefit our users, partners, and shareholders.

Get ready to find out what someone trying to make Partner or VP at Microsoft is all about, dear Yahoos. Be sure to ask about SPSA goals for a successful integration of Yahoo! and Microsoft assets.

At the basics, though, our imperial Lego blocks and their metric Lego blocks use very differently sized connectors.

I'm more concerned about the Yahoo! workforce. The talented remaining in the Yahoo! workforce, specifically. What a sucky week of events for them. Two weeks, really. Layoff rumors, bad financial results, layoff for real, and then a big corporation darkening their door, sans chocolates, saying that we're done with the sweet-nuthins-talk and it's time for my way or the highway. Well, actually, saying that it's time for my way or my way. What's a Yahoo to do? Wait it out, keeping things purring along? Start learning Windows Server, IIS, .NET, and Silverlight? Jump ship for a start-up, right in the middle of a looming recession? Damn.

Like I've said here over and over again, talent is talent and if you're good you can decide what you want to do and where you want to be. You're not locked into Yahoo! anymore than any Microsoftie is locked into Microsoft. It's a choice. And to feel good about your choice, you need to know and explore all of your options. There are no victims here. And the risk of that is that when the acquisition goes through, those left are those who either can't or won't find a position elsewhere. How much passion will remain? How do you keep the engagement going?

If we can help Yahoos explore Microsoft and it's culture, I'm happy to help. Realize this isn't the sunshine and teddy bear ice-cream parade site, though. I know little about Yahoo! culture so I don't know how different it is from Microsoft, although comments from former Microsofties tell me that its engineering groups aren't too different (which might be good and bad).

The Microsoft leadership also has to realize that the "Stay on Target" strategy isn't going to work for groups that heavily overlap with Yahoo! or would be replaced by Yahoo! implementations. On the surface, the coming year or two for a lot of online groups is looking like nothing more than a lot of angst, crap, and loss of momentum and brand. Why not dive into http://career/ and find something more rewarding? What's the reward for staying on target? It certainly looks like a bold opportunity to break through, but it has to be recognized as such and driven as such. Otherwise, it becomes the elephant in the All-Hands that starts chasing people out of the group, looking for a vision and hearing none.

And then: Ballmer. This will certainly serve as a transition out of the Gates era. Is Ballmer an Ahab figure, chasing the white whale of Google once and for all by roping two whaling ships together? If I write a book on my years at Microsoft one day, will it start out as "Call me Mini," as I reflect on the Microsoft flotsam and jetsam swirling around the world? I hope not. This will serve to define Ballmer, however. All online decisions and strategies have led to this point. And the scale of leadership required to pull success out of this bold move is, to tell you the truth, beyond any accomplishments I've seen so far. I have hope, but not much to back it up.

Oh, and this pretty much puts on the kibosh on any other big acquisitions for a while. So no need to speculate about Microsoft buying Adobe or anything like that. For now. One less thread for the rumor mill.

(Update: s/Yahooligans/Yahoos/g per comment. Added TechMeme link to Google's shot across the bow.)

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