When Turkeys Marry

February 7, 2008

In 2006, I was invited to attend a dinner with Robert Scoble in London, England. For two hours, I sat and listened. As the trajectory of the dinner took shape, I concluded that I should generally agree with his views. Now, 14 months removed from that instructive experience, I’m going to agree with him about the proposed Microsoft – Yahoo tie up.

I enjoyed “What You All Are All Missing about Google.” The best sentence in the essay is, in my opinion: “As I said on Channel 5 news on Friday night: put two turkeys together and you don’t get an eagle.” [Emphasis added.] Microsoft is one turkey. Yahoo is the other turkey. Together — no eagle. I agree with him.

I also agree in a tangential way with the statement attributed to an SEO guru: “Danny Sullivan told me that this deal is all about search.” [Emphasis added.] Let me offer what the French call pensées.

Turkeys

Turkeys, as I recall from my days near the farm yard, are one of the few birds rumored to drown in a rainstorm. The folk tale is that when a turkey looks up at the rain and forgets to button its beak, the turkey drowns. Turkeys are not the rocket scientists of the bird world, but , in my experience, turkeys aren’t that dumb. When Thanksgiving came around, my aunt and her hatchet were watched closely by the turkeys in the family’s farm yard. Turkeys knew something was about to happen.

The firms are profitable. Both have some good products. Both companies have thousands of extremely bright people. The reason I’m uncomfortable (note that I am not disagreeing) is that each company has certain technological characteristics. Each company has a distinctive culture. Turkey may be too strong a characterization.

Google’s View of the Deal

I agree that Google can benefit from Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo. Mr. Scoble says: “Google stands to gain HUGE by slowing down this deal.” To add one small nuance to Mr. Scoble’s statement I find Google’s thoughts and actions difficult to predict. My infrequent yet interesting interactions with the company have given me sufficient data to conclude that Google is a strategy mongrel. Other actions are manifestations of spontaneous decisions and “controlled chaos.” Perhaps Google is working, on one front, with thrusts into five or six key business sectors. On the other hand, Google is reacting quickly with a suggestion that a Microsoft – Yahoo tie up will be the end of the Web as we know it.

Email

I agree email is not where the money is. But Google has devised several mechanism to monetize electronic communications of which email is one member of this class. Google may have several ways to turn the “hard to monetize” email into “less hard to monetize” email. I expect rapid-fire testing and adapting. I want to wait and see what the Google does.

Instant Messaging: An Email Variant

Instant messaging has been difficult to monetize. IM is a variant of email. Perhaps the communication modes that today seem distinct will blur going forward?

Search

I agree that the Microsoft – Yahoo deal is about search. May I respectfully suggest that the major chord in this opera is the platform? Search is but one application running on that platform. I articulate this idea in my two Google studies: 2005′s The Google Legacy: How Search Became the Next Applicaton Platform and 2007′s Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator, If Google is a platform, does it follow that Google could disrupt other industry sectors as it has snarled competitive search engines’ horse power?

Gold in Google’s Pockets

I agree that Google benefits by a deal delay. I agree that Google benefits if Microsoft – Yahoo get married. Google may be vulnerable no matter what Microsoft does. Perhaps I will discuss some of these exogenous factors in another post.

Stephen Arnold, February 7, 2008

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