What kind of company would "Micro-hoo" be?

What kind of company would "Micro-hoo" be?

Summary: After falling off the radar screens for several weeks, Microsoft's proposed merger with Yahoo is back in the news feeds. First, Ballmer sent a letter to the Yahoo board, drawing a three week line in the sand after which Microsoft would (possibly) lower its bid and/or start a proxy battle that could lead to the replacement of Yahoo's directors.

SHARE:

After falling off the radar screens for several weeks, Microsoft's proposed merger with Yahoo is back in the news feeds. First, Ballmer sent a letter to the Yahoo board, drawing a three week line in the sand after which Microsoft would (possibly) lower its bid and/or start a proxy battle that could lead to the replacement of Yahoo's directors. Next, Yahoo tried an ad-sense linkup with Google to see if it can eke out more revenue by...extending Google's ad reach (an odd gambit, in my opinion, as that would seem to make Google's ad network that much more valuable, and be a vote of no-confidence in their own).

Just to mix things up a bit, rumor has it that Microsoft might double up with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp on the bid. This would make a rather formidable grouping of Internet media sites, including MSN, Yahoo, MySpace, and two major news networks (MSNBC and Fox). If Microsoft could keep Facebook, another ally, happy, it would have deep linkages into all the major social networking sites.

That would surely boost the value of the Microsoft / Yahoo ad network, which is the whole point to this proposed merger (in my opinion), and the likely reason that Google is tripping over itself to prevent the merger from happening.

I still, however, can't get over my vague unease about the whole project. Granted, I understand completely why Microsoft executives are interested in doing this. Monetizing free (as in cost) software is essential now, and will only become more so in the future. Further, with News Corp's possible involvement, the scope of the deal starts to reach ground-shifting proportions (as are the sums of money involved).

My concerns, however, are more cultural...at least from a Microsoft standpoint. Assuming that the merger goes forward, with or without News Corp's partnership, I'm left wondering what kind of company Microsoft would be in the aftermath?

When I asked that question awhile ago in a piece searching for a core identity, Mr. Kidding (of "Yagotta B." fame) noted that I would have an equally hard time finding a central theme in General Electric's business. There are, however, fundamental differences between GE and a software - or even computer hardware - company.

Most IT companies I can think of have some form of readily-identifiable central theme. Apple is a maker of consumer-oriented hardware products. Oracle is a maker of databases and the software that feeds it. Skype is a maker of communications products, even if they have tie-ins to online auctions sites (which makes sense, as eBay now owns them).

Google is harder, though I would call them mostly a web software company backed by the revenue gusher of the most successful Internet ad network in existence. Though they are diving off into non-web application directions (e.g. the Android SDK), I would argue that has more to do with Google's desire to extend the web platform onto as many devices as possible, using that reach as a "Trojan horse" for their ad network.

Oddballs do exist, such as IBM. There was once a time when it was pretty clear what IBM did. They made hardware, for the most part, and their software business was viewed more as something that made their hardware valuable (though that is still to a certain extent the case as software sales as such are not an important part of their business; that makes it easier for them to enthusiastically embrace open source across its product lines). These days, however, one would have to argue that consulting holds a cherished place in their revenue temple, and patent licensing has turned into a massive business in its own right.

Perhaps IBM is an instructive example. It's easier to have clarity of purpose when you are a smaller company. A large company like Microsoft, however, is going to have a lot more product stakes in the fire. Perhaps it's natural for large IT companies to end up looking like IBM. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't value in trying to create a core identity that is rigorously applied across business lines.

I've proposed that Microsoft should embrace its platform core, as it constitutes a unique competitive advantage on Microsoft's part. Embracing it more fully would mean there should be more top-down central control over technologies used across product lines than Microsoft historically has been comfortable imposing.

I don't think that it's worth stopping a merger with Yahoo to sit around navel-gazing about existential issues related to Microsoft culture.  I do, however, think it's important, and think it would help greatly in the merger of cultures that automatically comes with a merger of corporate entities.

Topics: Networking, Banking, Google, Microsoft, Social Enterprise

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

39 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The Microsoft propaganda machine includes John Carroll.

    Not sure exactly what they are trying to communicate here. But, in general, they are trying to make the takeover seem less hostile, less aggressive, at the same time subtly bad-mouthing other MS competitors like Google.

    Really, a good work of propaganda!! I would guess that John works with a number of different strategists to perfect these pieces.
    DonnieBoy
    • Actually,

      ...that black helicopter hovering outside your window was sent by me and my associates. I've also tapped your cell phone.
      John Carroll
      • I see you met DonnieBoy:

        the unofficial Goggle spokesperson, cheerleader; maker of the "Google colored" glasses, and "expert" on all the inner workings at Microsoft.

        Don't argue with him as it will make you head spin, but for all the wrong reasons!
        GuidingLight
        • And exactly how is that an argument?

          I could accuse you of making "Microsoft colored" glasses, but would that in any way discredit what you are saying? Or would that just be an indication that I am upset with your posts, but can't think or anyway to argue against what you are saying, so I just throw insults.

          Come on, try to carefully understand what I said and tell us why it is wrong.
          DonnieBoy
          • Having some fun with you.

            You never seem to see the truth, and invent it when you need to, so at times it is not even worth enganging you other then to poke some fun.

            Sorry. ;)
            GuidingLight
          • I think you are only making fun at yourself with the stupid posts.

            NT.
            DonnieBoy
        • I salute "DonnieBoy"....

          ... he knows this place is "MS Shill" Central and yet he turns up day after day after day to ensure that some voice is heard in these fora that is just a lot bleat about about MS can do no wrong.

          John, I excuse. He is honest enough to admit openly that M$ pays him. Hoever, some of the posters round here are so pro-M$ that I suspect they're sitting in Redmond in the PR dept.
          bportlock
          • Darn typos.....

            Why is it you cannot see typos until AFTER you press "submit". That should have read




            ... he knows this place is "MS Shill" Central and yet he turns up day after day after day to ensure that some voice is heard in these fora that is not just a lot bleating about about MS can do no wrong.

            John, I excuse. He is honest enough to admit openly that M$ pays him. Hoever, some of the posters round here are so pro-M$ that I suspect they're sitting in Redmond in the PR dept.
            bportlock
      • An interesting reply John, I supose you and the strategists could find no

        better way to counteract my post. In general, though, I commend you. Very good cooperative propaganda work.
        DonnieBoy
      • Dude.....

        A black helicopter?

        You were [b]supposed[/b] to send a Predator drone kitted out with Hellfire anti-tank missil... I mean, kitted out with a full surveillance package.
        Hallowed are the Ori
        • Yes, very entertaining, and very indicative of Microsoft's dilema here.

          They would love to use the old trick to blow away open source like they did so many others, but, those tactics doesn't work with open source.

          Ya gotta feel for poor Billy and Stevie.
          DonnieBoy
          • We feel sorry for you

            in more ways then you know. Some people just have a totally different view of themselves as opposed to how the rest of the world actually view them.
            GuidingLight
          • We?

            That's a little too all inclusive and supersized word for you to use.

            FYI, one could also argue that your mostly kneejerk defense of all things Microsoft is almost as predictable as NonZealot's "Apple is evil" mantra, or LoveRock's "I'm right, and I don't care if I'm wrong" thing.

            Mind you, what do I know, I've been labelled a smug and arrogant Macophile, a Linux zealot, and a few other things to boot. Ah well, such is life.
            zkiwi
          • LOOK EVERYONE!@#@(#*@!! HE MENTIONS ME!!@!

            People can't get enough of me :)
            Loverock Davidson
          • However...

            The most important thing was that I mentioned me! :P
            zkiwi
          • Loverock, the only human ever to think...

            ... "curl up and die", is a pleasant greeting.
            John Le'Brecage
          • Look here, there's a complete blog about Loverock

            http://blogs.zdnet.com/Foremski/?p=251

            he's highly thought of everywhere...... :o)
            deaf_e_kate
          • You describe yourself so well.

            The guy with no arguments, only personal insults.
            DonnieBoy
      • LOL!

        That was funny!
        Loverock Davidson
        • Yes! It is important to also be entertaining with propaganda. That makes it

          more effective.
          DonnieBoy