I almost wrote a very long blog post telling Microsoft how it could get back into the search business. In response to all this stuff in the Wall Street Journal and on TechMeme about how Steve Ballmer is telling employees that he thinks he can guide Microsoft into the advertising business without buying Yahoo.
I got about halfway through that long post and I just deleted it. Why? Because they don’t care to listen. So why am I wasting my time talking at 1:30 a.m. to a few billionaires and a bunch of arrogant coders who think they built something of value when, in fact, they’ve just built second-rate Web sites (Windows Live Spaces anyone, sorry, it sucks even if there are 100 million of them) who don’t have a clue about how to get back into the search game and who are never going to have a clue?
I’m bored. Microsoft buying Yahoo is just going to be very boring for users for a long time. Why? Even if things go perfectly it’ll take six to 12 months to get approval by EU and DOJ. And they won’t go perfectly. Even after the deal is done it’ll be another six to 12 months before these two cultures get together in any significant way. So, that’s a year to two before we even see anything non-boring.
I find that Google listens a lot more than Yahoo or Microsoft does. Google has left billions of dollars on the table that it will go after over the next year, if they are as smart as I think they are.
Where are those billions? Well, let’s just look at one tiny little sliver of Google’s system that it’s left alone. Google Travel. That page sucks. Think about how you decide to take a trip. Does that page help? Not really. No video. No cool people telling you about interesting places. No personality. No branding. No interesting Web services.
And the big brand travel sites aren’t any better. Now, what about parenting? Other activities?
This is why Facebook is so interesting as a business. Facebook has some inherent advantages to creating market need that no one else is even attempting to do. Ask Jeff Pulver how he gets hundreds of people to show up to his breakfasts all over the world. He just opens up a Facebook page and writes what he’s doing.
Or, ask any winery how much of an impact this small little video show is having on their business. The red carpet rolled out on our little wine tasting trip told me everything I needed to know about its impact.
Funny, Microsoft just bought Farecast, which is one piece of what I’m thinking about, but will Microsoft do anything innovative with it? I think it’s distracted with this purchase. Too distracted to do anything soon enough to keep the newbies like Mahalo and the Googlers’ from figuring it out.
I just don’t see Microsoft and Yahoo making any serious moves into search or advertising that comes off of search, do you? Yet I see that Google is weak in other areas (and I told them such when I met with them the other day — they listened, and that listening behavior told me they know that they are going to see more growth in non-search areas if they execute well). It stuns me why Ballmer isn’t going after those areas (as bad as Google’s Travel page is, Microsoft’s is worse) instead of spending billions trying to buy Yahoo, who clearly doesn’t want to be purchased (Farecast, again, was an interesting purchase, but only if put inside a bigger strategy).
Unfortunately Ballmer is hamstrung by two things: 1. the returns that they need to see to have any real effect on the bottom line are so huge that it causes Ballmer to have blindness to small things and 2. they really don’t have that many people working there who really grok the Internet. Think about that for a second. If you really knew how to build a scalable web site, wouldn’t you be joining Facebook or FriendFeed right now instead of toiling inside Microsoft where they can’t even seem to execute on a purchase of Yahoo very well? Heck, just reading Mini Microsoft tells you that things aren’t being seen well from inside the walls. Yeah, there are those inside Microsoft who are happy with the way things are going, but I’m hearing more and more screams lately from inside the walls. I hope to learn more when I go to Seattle June 10-13 to visit Microsoft and learn more about the Internet strategy (which is becoming more interesting on several fronts like what Scott Guthrie, tools, Ray Ozzie, Mesh and infrastructure, and Dean Hachamovitch, IE, teams are doing).
I don’t see the Yahoo acquisition ending well for Microsoft but I’m losing my will to care anymore and I’m not the only one. THAT is Microsoft’s real problem.
Google: take the money off the table — build great niche search sites around topics like travel, wine, parenting, housing, automobiles, etc. You have a year to do it before Microsoft can even START to figure out where you’re weak.
Too bad that Ballmer didn’t have a vision for the Internet. Imagine if Microsoft started doing some really great niche sites with its $40+billions? Imagine that…