Yahoo: Goodbye Bartz Hello Baidu or Apple

In yet another mystifying move, Yahoo’s board fired Carol Bartz and ended her three year tenure as CEO.  Over the last three years, Bartz has had to clean up after the less than stellar leadership of both Jerry Yang and Terry Semel led to revenue slowdowns, management bloat, product missteps, and who knows what else.

While I’m saddened to see Bartz go, I’m more aggravated by the ridiculous articles and blogs regarding Yahoo’s past, present, and future.  Note to the mainstream press…Yahoo IS NOT Google.  Yahoo is NOT Facebook.

Yahoo IS an Internet icon, a portal destination, an information and communications hub, and is chalk full of popular services and offerings.  Often seen as less innovative than Google, Yahoo has made meaningful contributions to Hadoop and has recently open sourced Traffic Server which was acquired as part of the Inktomi acquisition.

I see two paths for Yahoo; Baidu and Apple.

Baidu has grown into a formidable challenger to Google.  For Baidu to take the next step they must enter the Western marketplace and Yahoo would be the perfect vehicle to make this a reality.  A cash and talent infusion by Baidu would reinvigorate Yahoo giving it new life to innovate and disrupt its way to revenue growth.  It would also mean an end to Yahoo’s partnership with Microsoft (or would it) as well as new competitive efforts across traditional and mobile solutions.

Apple is a dominant force within the mobile/tablet community and Yahoo would make the perfect destination for their users.  With one brush of the pen, Yahoo would be folded under the Apple brand and would change the perception of Yahoo from old/dying to new/exciting.  Apple could use Yahoo as a platform for iCloud services and revamp Yahoo’s offerings to work seamlessly within iOS and OSX.  Additionally, Apple could use Yahoo to offer new and innovative Cloud services and accelerate the adoption of HTML5.

In the end, Bartz will come-up a winner in this mess as her honesty and toughness is refreshing.  However, the future for Yahoo may be bright as long as the Board realizes it’s time to turn the reigns over and sell the company.  Let’s hope they don’t turn down an offer like they had from Microsoft again and Yahoo finds a new home!

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Google Must Change Tactics and Android Must Succeed

It is safe to say that I have not been a big fan of Google. I have issues with their tactics, business model, and insatiable appetite for personal information. It will come as no surprise to my readers, that I was delighted by Google’s recent announcement to cancel plans to bring the Nexus One to Verizon. However, my reasons behind supporting this decision may come as a shock to you; Android must succeed. Why?

To put it bluntly; Google may be the only company left that can stop Apple’s dominance in the mobile space. While Microsoft certainly has the talent, I question if they have the will as they continue to chase Google for advertising dollars. Meanwhile, Nokia seems a bit dazed and confused by Apple’s success as they cling to Symbian OS. RIM is stuck in the Enterprise world as they must now fight Apple on their home turf with devices that seem behind the times. Finally, Palm may find a buyer but also obsolescence.

One of my best friends put it this way, “When you buy an iPhone you are buying a device without root access.” In essence, we are forced to use and develop applications on the iPhone via the pleasure and direction of Apple. In the past few months, we have tried to develop more than a few interesting iPhone applications only to find we were in danger of violating Apple’s Licensing or Apple’s iPhone OS did not support or allow what we were trying to build. While some have gone the “jail breaking” route to overcome these obstacles, we would rather stay within the mainstream user population and remain legal.

While Apple controls every aspect of the iPhone, Google has the chance to disrupt this model. For some reason, Google has a tenancy to follow leaders in particular spaces. In my opinion, that is why they created the Nexus One as they thought controlling the hardware and software was key in creating a successful device. HTC and Motorola proved this notion incorrect when they created superior devices with the same Android OS. What Google really needs to do is concentrate on improving and refining Android’s usability and functionality to exceed that of Apple’s iPhone OS.

A refined Android with a vibrant community filled with robust application development has the chance to trump iPhone because it is open (we have root access!) and a killer application is sure to be developed. Google has many different avenues to make money off of Android including advertising, cloud services, and more.

Therefore, Google must change their tactics by concentrating on refining and improving Android while supporting their hardware and carrier partners.

Apple’s Next Move; Buy Yahoo

It seems like only yesterday when the world wasn’t quite so complicated. When good vs. evil was as simple as Apple vs. Microsoft. With the rise of the Internet came the birth of a whole new paradigm of communicating and sharing information. Proprietary software has new open source challengers that are surprisingly refined while continuing to expand their capabilities. Client/Server gave way to Web based user interfaces and the deliver of legacy software is giving way to the cloud. The desktop has been replaced by the laptop, the cell phone became a mobile device, and Apple has become a powerful force within computing, music, video, mobile devices, and more. However, once again the world has changed and Apple must adapt to face a new challenge; Google.

Once upon a time Apple and Google were friends with a common enemy and clear boundary lines. Today, those lines have been crossed and they are headed on a collision course. Apple didn’t start this skirmish, but they did create an inflection point that has become a clear threat to Google’s future. The rise of OSX, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and now iPad, flew in the face of Google’s Internet vision centered around their cloud. Google risked losing control of the end-user platform and the advertising revenue they covet; they had no choice but to stop Apple’s momentum. Therefore, Android, Chrome, and Chrome OS were born.

While Google is on the offensive, Apple continues to chart their own course. However, this changed when Google released the Nexus One and then snatched AdMob from Apple’s hands forcing them to settle for Quattro Wireless. This skirmish is now an old fashion feud and may escalate into an all out war. Maybe that’s why Schmidt met with Jobs last Friday to attempt to deescalate the situation, but remember that Jobs never yielded to Gates. If Apple wants to attack Google, then look no further than Yahoo as a perfect takeover target.

Apple would not be buying Yahoo for search, that’s Microsoft’s problem. Instead, Apple would be gaining a cloud and advertising platform for which they could re-launch current Yahoo services, build on Yahoo’s mobile and location based strategy, and integrate current Apple offerings. Imagine a new Yahoo that has been injected with Apple’s DNA and provided innovative services and content for Apple’s computing and mobile products. How about a cloud based iTunes Store, the merging of Flickr with iPhoto, or Time Capsule based back-up in the Cloud. I shutter to think how Apple could redefine and reinvigorate Yahoo.

Consider this, Yahoo is still the third most popular website on the United States. Yahoo’s problem has never been visitors, instead it has always been the monetization of their incredible content. Does anyone doubt Apple’s ability to introduce new and innovative business models to the market? Additionally, Yahoo’s Fire Eagle location-based service would be downright explosive in Apple’s hands.

As Jobs rightfully stated, “We (Apple) did not enter the search business. They (Google) entered the phone business.” Now is the time for Apple to take their massive following, passion, and ability to invent ground breaking intuitive technology and attack the advertising revenue that is at the heart of Google’s dominance. The centerpiece of such an attack is the purchase of Yahoo serving as a catalyst for Apple’s continued domination of the mobile space.

The bamboozle is over: Google’s Mantra is BS

Google is scary on many fronts; from the information they collect about their users to how they use their size/power to bully their way into markets.  While Platen has written about the evils of advertising based services and the power that Google (and Facebook) hold over their users, the mainstream media and “Wall Street” are in love with GOOG.  Why?  They are a money making machine with a cult-like following.  Search has become synonymous with Google.

What has Google really done?

Google Search and AdWords puts Inktomi out of business…YES
Google Mail ends Yahoo Mail’s dominance…NO
Google Docs ends Microsoft’s Office dominance…NO
Google Talk ends Skype’s dominance…NO
Google Chat ends Yahoo/AOL IM’s dominance…NO
Google Chrome ends IE/Firefox’s browser dominance…NO
Google Android ends iPhone’s dominance…NO
Google YouTube ends Hulu’s dominance…NO
Google Books ends Amazon’s dominance….NO
Google Nexus One ends iPhone’s dominance…Any bets?…NO
Google Orkut ends (take your pick)’s dominance…NO
Google Chrome OS ends Linux/Microsoft’s dominance…Any bets?…NO
And the list continues…

Has Google made a strategic mistake?

While Microsoft continues to fight Google on many levels, they are too polarizing of a company to be a fanatical threat to Google.  However, the same cannot be said about Apple.  Apple users are incredibly loyal, fanatical, and growing.  Additionally, Apple already has what Google wants and needs; OSX, iPhone, iPad, and i(whatever they want to build).   Google sees the future; it’s in mobile devices and owning the mobile OS and/or advertising platforms.  Apple has the devices, the store, and the platform to dominate.

After Steve jobs said, “…This don’t be evil mantra: It’s bullshit.” Google’s world is very different.  With a single OS upgrade, Google search becomes a memory on the iPhone.  Or, with a single purchase, iSearch is born.  Or, …

As Carl Sagan said, “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  The bamboozle has captured us.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Google isn’t a non-for-profit, they aren’t the Gates Foundation; instead they are like any other corporation that seeks to maximize profits and shareholder value.  However, while IBM sells services, Cisco sells hardware, and Wal-Mart sells goods, Google needs YOUR personal information, YOUR habits, YOUR mood, YOUR clicks, and more to make money via advertising.

The bamboozle is over.

Top Ten Things the “real” press writes or reports about that make me cringe

  1. Cloud Computing
    I’m waiting for either MythBusters or Penn & Teller: BS to do an episode on Cloud Computing.  It’s not that I don’t believe in Cloud Computing or that I am not working towards making it a reality, but the fact is Cloud Computing is in its infancy and has a long way to go.  Unifying servers, storage, networking, security, management, and applications is not going to happen overnight.  I’ll shout from the mountain tops when the big boy application vendors are on-board and management is not an afterthought.
  2. Google
    Perhaps my days at Inktomi have jaded me, but “Google” is not worthy of sainthood.  If only Google made laptops, monitors, TVs, coffee makers, chairs, windows, doors, cars, laundry machines, and more, my life would be better.  After-all, anything Google does is better than you.  When will we read about their true motives; gathering as much information about you so that they can make as much money as they can from you via the advertisers.
  3. iPhone Killers
    How many iPhone vs. X stories will I have to review this year?   The iPhone has three things going for it:  Apple, AT&T, and iTunes.  Apple is on a roll that mirrors what Microsoft did in the 80s, AT&T’s network (GSM is global), although maligned, is the only network that has a chance to handle the iPhone’s incredible amounts of data traffic, and iTunes is an incredible marketplace of movies, TV shows, podcasts, applications, and more.  Perhaps “It’s the Applications Stupid” but Apple is definitely winning this battle; VHS vs. Beta anyone (experienced) or Blue Ray vs. HD DVD (still seasoning)?
  4. Microsoft
    It seems that impartiality is thrown out the window when you write about Microsoft.  Perhaps more polarizing than any politician, either you love ‘em or hate ‘em; Why?  Is it that Gates made too much money or Ballmer sweats too much or Ray is nuts or who do they think they are earning top margins on their software or is it something else?   Maybe Microsoft should take a lesson from Apple and rename their development efforts and code lines into cutesy animals like Zebra, Panda, and Kuala Bear; who can hate a Kuala Bear?  Like it or not, if the US is going to be a technology leader in the next century, Microsoft is going to be a big part of it.
  5. Top Companies to Watch Lists
    Does anyone bother to check these lists for accuracy?  Does anyone ever talk to the employees?  Free food equals the best place to work?  I remember a time when getting on the Red Herring list was the kiss of death.  Oh, the marketers love these lists and share them with the world, but do they really mean anything?  Of course, I’ve known a few people that will fire off their resumes to these companies, just in case.  I’ll admit that I read them too, but it’s more like reading celebrity gossip; mindless entertainment and/or here today gone tomorrow.

Hey, that’s only 5; stay tuned…

AT&T & iPhone: “Can you hear me now?”

AT&T Wireless has become the company that we love to hate.  After-all, they are the 2nd largest wireless carrier in the United States and maintain exclusive rights to the Apple iPhone.  Furthermore, we are bombarded by advertisements from Verizon poking fun at AT&T with their clever “can you hear me now” advertisements based on the quality of their wireless network.  How can poor AT&T even dream to compete against Verizon?  For goodness sakes, Verizon scared Sprint right out of the core network business.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a currently an AT&T wireless customer and I am completely addicted to my Apple iPhone 3G.  Like many iPhone users, I find myself using the “phone” less and less and instead rely on AT&T’s 3G network for data transmissions.  For me, the iPhone is an extension, and in some cases a replacement, for my laptop.  While I have experienced issues with both Apple’s software and the AT&T network, I understand AT&T’s challenges and I am thankful they are spending both the time and money to correct those issues.  Is Verizon’s network up to the iPhone challenge?

It is time to find out the answer to that question.  I propose that AT&T renegotiate the terms of their exclusivity agreement with Apple to allow Verizon to offer the iPhone on their network.  AT&T would maintain exclusive rights to all next generation iPhone models (4G, 5G …) for x number of months.  This would allow AT&T to keep a competitive edge on Verizon while giving consumers greater choice and providing Apple access to the number one wireless provider in the United States.

Additionally, it has the potential to bring Verizon’s network to its knees.  While Verizon’s network is impressive, it has never seen anything like the traffic iPhone users generate.  Verizon would be saddled with the same growing pains that AT&T experienced with one difference, “can you hear me now.”  Initially, Verizon would gain some high volume customers from AT&T while watching a significant percentage of their base switch to the iPhone.  Let’s face it; Verizon’s phones are boring at best.

After this initial spike in subscribers, the real fun begins.  Verizon’s iPhone users will begin to complain about similar issues to the ones that AT&T users have experienced; poor battery life, dropped calls, no rings, slow network, no network available, no data available, and more.  Verizon’s customer care will see their call volumes spike and their customer satisfaction numbers will fall.  Finally, “can you hear me now” will become a thing of the past and we’ll see Verizon’s CEO walking through the park apologizing and promising they can do better.

Finally, the emperor will have no clothes and all eyes will be focused squarely on Apple.  Apple will be forced to clean-up their act by providing more reliable software and introducing better hardware in their newest iPhone models.  Who does that benefit the most? AT&T (see above exclusivity agreement).  In the meantime, AT&T will have spent billions of dollars upgrading their network using the lessons they have learned to provide a superior experience via their network.

“Can you hear me now?”

Android in the Enterprise: Forget About It

Google has announced their intentions to add “enterprise features” into Android OS beginning with the ability to synchronize with Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. Are you kidding me?

First, Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar are not enterprise-class applications. As an enterprise user of all three applications, I find them slow and light-years behind Microsoft Exchange/Office and even Open-Xchagne/OpenOffice.

Second, can you trust Android OS in the enterprise? If Google’s entire business model is based on advertising and data mining, what security risks does Android OS pose? RIM has spend years building up corporate trust and security controls that have proven themselves within the enterprise. With all Apple’s success, they have struggled to make deep inroads against RIM. Google will face the same challenges and more.

Borrowing the words of Donnie Brasco, Google….”Forget about it.”

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