The specifics of Thompson's vision are still unclear. In comments to analysts and reporters, he has talked generally about doing a better job of analyzing the data that Yahoo collects about its 700 million monthly visitors. That would help the company sell ads and develop mobile services to connect with the growing number of people surfing the Web on smartphones and tablet computers.
But the most important numbers hurt: six layoffs and three CEOs in four years -- not the mark of a healthy company. Sure, quarterly earnings are great, but the short-term wins under Bartz and Yang have come at the expense of long-term survival and relevance.
Thompson is wagering that Yahoo can sell more ads if it drills down into that rich trove of personal information. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company still owns some of the most popular news, sports and finance websites.
The good news: if you have a captive audience, at least you can then figure out how to monetize them. (See: Facebook, Twitter, etc.) It's difficult to monetize an empty room. (Right, Myspace?)
The Washington Post's Brian Womack questioned whether the layoffs will "trigger a turnaround," but I think he (or his editor) misses the point -- it's not the layoffs that matter in the long run, it's the direction in which the next steps are made.
Yahoo today is really, primarily, a portal to content (its own and third-parties), information and tools. Yahoo won’t describe itself that way because “portals” is very late 1990’s.
...adding, "Yahoo now thinks it’s a platform, though no one else does. No one is building apps for Yahoo. Yahoo builds for itself and people use its services." That's not entirely a bad thing, if that's the direction it thinks it can go -- and does so.
In three months' time, has Thompson already figured out Yahoo's new direction? Even a visionary needs time to think, and Yahoo's largesse is large enough to suggest that he barely had a chance to review the numbers.
Thompson's real challenge is to reconcile where Yahoo is with where it wants to go. And he needs to decide the latter first. Layoffs can be a means to that end, but this round is only buying Thompson time -- it won't offer any answers.