Sure, theyve stumbled, made bad bets, goofed up, etc. etc. But by and large Microsoft, if given enough time, is a winner at most everything it sets its collective efforts towards. So when I look at the prospects for Microsoft buying Yahoo, I dont think theres a lot of precedent for believing the deal wont get done.
That doesnt mean Im totally in love with the notion that buying Yahoo is a good idea for Microsoft. Nor do I buy the fact that Google poses the level of threat to Microsoft that many believe it does the former, to be blunt, is just a new-fangled media company trying to capture a little more of the seven percent of advertising dollars that are spent on web advertising today. Boring.
Having spent the same twenty-plus years involved with the media business, I can assure you that being a leader in media, any media, is a dubious distinction at best.
On the other hand, Microsoft is, well, a company that has a habit of churning out interesting and, arguably, highly useful technology that is, at times, truly ahead of its time. (For the record, Vista is excluded from the previous statement, for reasons everyone should be aware of. But if youve looked at Sharepoint recently, youll know what I mean about interesting, useful, and even ahead of its time.)
Meanwhile, when I look at Google I see a search engine that is a mile wide and a millimeter deep, and some pretty cool technologies for pushing unwanted advertising at me in the form of bogus search results. They also do some really fun things like taking pictures from their roving van and mashing them up to their free mapping service and some stupid things, like pretending that their desktop productivity software can meet the corporate worlds requirements for security, reliability, and privacy. Add to this list their latest so-called Sharepoint-killer Google Sites which is garnering a lot of negative blog for its lack of usability and featurelessness.
But when I think of Microsoft and Yahoo coming together, I think of Google for the rest of us those who dont want free software that doesnt meet our needs or search that isnt very searchy. In fact, I have some faith that Microhoo could become Google 2.0, and thereby make some interesting shifts in the dynamics of the blending of consumer and business functionality on the Web come to fruition.
First and foremost, Microhoo could try to fix the fact that Googles search technology is sooo last century, as in the Stone Age, that its almost funny to call it search. The lack of any semantic context at all is something that business users should have been hollering about for a long time, considering what the state of on-premise database search has been offering for decades.
In Google, context-based search largely consists of adding quotes to your search terms, which adds a soupcon of Boolean logic to an otherwise logic-free search environment. The fact that most users dont know how to trick Google to do Boolean operations (believe me, I show people how to add quotes to search, and watch the lights go on every time) says a lot about how much Google has helped dumb-down search and users expectations of what kind of results they could possibly get.