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MS-Yahoo: Can Ray Ozzie Make Elephants Dance?

My two cents on Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo: Microsoft, finding itself in the new world of the social graph, needs to buy some friends. People don’t like Microsoft, they fear and respect it. People don’t buy Microsoft products, they buy products that already contain the OS and Office. People choose Yahoo, they choose delicious and flickr. They like Yahoo Finance. And it’s all supported by advertising.

The question about whether Microsoft could successfully integrate Yahoo is a people question. Is there a strong enough personality within Microsoft to envision an entity that creates a new integrated whole. Clearly it’s not Steve Ballmer, and that means it’s got to be Ray Ozzie. Ozzie is trying to move the key Microsoft revenue streams on to the network with his “Live” initiatives. Yahoo is the advertising framework and user base that could contain and support the new web-based Microsoft Office live.

If Ray Ozzie can make elephants dance, many of are wondering who will call the tune. Microsoft is willing to pay $31 a share, but the cost to Microsoft will be much higher if they decide that Yahoo has to be rebuilt on a Microsoft technical stack. That was their approach with HotMail and it was very expensive. Is this the moment in time where Microsoft embraces a mixed technical operating environment? Yahoo is a big supporter of open standards and open source, the community is justifiably concerned about how Microsoft will affect this. When you integrate YahooMail and HotMail, do you make your decision based on technical stack or the quality of the product? Are the decision makers at Microsoft capable of making a decision based on product quality?

Can a shot-gun wedding result in a happy marriage? When we discuss $1 billion in efficiency as a result of the merger, we’re referring to the brutal process of merging groups, firing people, closing facilities and trying to keep the lights on during the process. The digerati of the Bay area and Redmond will be significantly affected by these changes, and it will ripple into the surrounding economies. There will be a lot of pain for both those who stay and those who leave.

It’s up to Ray Ozzie to provide a new vision of the combined entity that will convince those left standing that it was worth it. For the deal to ultimately be successful, Microsoft will have to be transformed as much or more than Yahoo.

Comments

  1. Steve Gillmor | February 3rd, 2008 | 4:37 pm

    Remember that Ray was key to making a previous gobble of Lotus by IBM work.