"If that's all you've got, you'd better quit now."
Those were the opening lines of a "fireside chat" between Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington this morning at the TechCrunch: Disrupt conference in New York City.
In an interview that was at times awkward, pained and yes, a little interesting, Arrington questioned the direction of the enormous company Bartz leads by simply asking, "What is Yahoo?"
Yahoo is a great company that is very, very strong in content for its users, uses amazing technology to serve up what increasingly we think is going to be the web of one. People come to us to figure out what's going on in the world...it's a place where you can just get it together.
Citing Monday morning's news, in which Yahoo announced a partnership with Match.com for its personal listings and another to exclusively serve Nokia mobile phones, Bartz said Yahoo was consolidating its major properties to focus on its "sweet spots."
"Mobile is extremely important," Bartz said, adding that emerging markets -- where Yahoo Messenger use is strong -- are a focus. "Of the 82 million devices, we're on 37 [million] of them."
"Our advertising business is an enormous technical effort," Bartz said. "These days in the Valley, if you're not coming out with a device or a platform is somehow not innovating."
More choice quotes from Bartz:
"Lots of people work on a project, even at Apple. Proposals get made, sent back..."
"We're in a very new industry here. Most of these wonderful startups that are shooting through here...it's like in the early days. Yahoo's 15 years old."
"The first day we put up comments on Yahoo News, that first morning we had 85,000 comments. People are very eager to interact with people."
"How do we interact with the Facebooks and real-time info like Twitter....it is a combination of not having a walled garden, getting feeds inside Yahoo products in a very integrated fashion -- social mail's important -- in the right way, you find out more about people."
On data: "I'd love to own it. Shit, why not? I'd like to be Queen Poobah of the world, but I'm not."
To be a 20 percent grower, [Google] has to grow a company the size of Yahoo every year.
Bartz also defended herself, saying she shouldn't be expected to come up with a game-changing innovation after 16 months on the job, and noted that Steve Jobs was at Apple for four years before it released its first iPod.
"You are involved in a very tiny company," Bartz said to Arrington, holding her fingers in the air, an inch apart. "And it probably takes a long time to even convince yourself what to do."
"So I don't want to hear any crap about something magical that the fine people of Yahoo are supposed to do in this short time. So f*ck off."
ZDNet's The Web Life contributor Andrew Mager was also present for the talk. Here's his take.