This morning, Michael Krigsman wrote and short piece regarding the proposed merger of Microsoft and Yahoo! (See Microsoft-Yahoo: Enterprise confusion.) Michael suggests that the proposed merger (or takeover - depending upon your prospective), may somehow confuse Microsoft's enterprise customers.
Two thoughts immediately came to mind. One is that Microsoft has long dominated the consumer marketplace so why would Microsoft's enterprise customers care if MS were to expand their consumer offerings? The other is that a very large portion of those employed by those enterprise customers require no special computer training in large part because they have a computer at home running Microsoft products.
Michael lists four examples of typical enterprise level technologies which are not generally found in the consumer space. Then he lists five service areas which are almost exclusively in the consumer space. His assumption is that these five services are so different that there is no overlap with the enterprise. What Michael is forgetting about is higher education.
Today, higher education more closely resembles the modern enterprise than it does the consumer space. (I have been preaching for years that Education IT in K-12 needs to stop thinking like consumers and start thinking like the enterprise as well). But back to my point ...
Like the enterprise, employing consumers with Microsoft-based computers at home, Higher Education directly serves consumers whose future lies largely in the enterprise. Today, colleges and universities have extensive IT infrastructures -- with many on the leading edge of the technology of which Michael speaks. In fact, while the typical enterprise depends upon one or two of the technologies he mentions, modern universities must tap them all -- and a great deal more!
So, you might ask How would the acquisition of Yahoo! affect Higher Education?
We've talked a lot about how educators can engage their students -- by utilizing widely available and affordable consumer technologies which students use every day:
- providing student-friendly e-mail services
- using wireless and cellular services to keep students informed
- mapping for helping students locate services on campus
- podcasting lectures
- job placement services
Of course, this doesn't begin to scratch the surface. Finally, Michael tells us:
Few companies have succeeded simultaneously in both enterprise infrastructure software and consumer content. There’s a reason for this: the skills, mindset, culture, economics, and sales environment are completely different in the two domains. The acquisition will make Microsoft appear schizophrenic and unfocused to enterprise software buyers.
Well, Microsoft is not just any company -- and they have succeeded for years by picking and choosing the domains in which they choose to compete. No, they have not always been successful -- but they have been successful enough. Microsoft has learned to internally separate its various units so that each can best serve the needs of its particular customer base.
Ultimately, higher education is the one enterprise which Microsoft can leverage both consumer content and enterprise technology to the best advantage. If they give Yahoo! the kind of autonomy it needs to compete, Microsoft's resources will allow Yahoo! to compete in the consumer space and perhaps expand beyond the enterprise of higher education which Microsoft has serviced for years.