Yahoo Needs To Pull An Apple Before It Becomes A Netscape

from the can-jerry-yang-channel-his-inner-steve-jobs? dept

By now, of course, you've seen the story of the weekend: Microsoft walking away from its offer to Yahoo, after first raising its bid (though not high enough for Yahoo). Microsoft chose not to go hostile recognizing that would make a bad situation even worse -- in part because Yahoo made it clear that it would swallow its own type of a poison pill by handing over its search to Google. At this point, you can expect a bunch of lawsuits to follow, and Yahoo's stock to fall off a cliff. It's not unreasonable to think Jerry Yang's job may be on the line.

So what now? To be honest, this is a case where I think that the interests of Yahoo's shareholders and the interest of the company diverged. Jerry Yang and Yahoo probably recognized that the integration would be a disaster, in part due to the cultural differences between the two companies. I honestly think Yahoo has a better chance of doing something interesting separate from Microsoft. However, by "better chance" that doesn't necessarily mean a "good chance."

At this point, Yahoo has a rather short time frame to turn the company around. Yes, it's profitable and yes, it's still huge -- but its big shareholders are going to come out of this pissed off and impatient. So Yahoo really needs to "pull an Apple." Apple in the late 90's was basically left for dead. Michael Dell famously declared that if he were in charge, he would shut the company down and give shareholders their money. But Steve Jobs came back and reinvented Apple into a very different company, first with the iMac, then the iPod and more recently the iPhone. He stopped the company from being "yet another computer company" and forged a totally different path.

If Yahoo wants to survive (and not end up getting taken over for a much lower price in another year or two), it needs to stop trying to be Google. In fact, it needs to stop thinking so much about Google, and it has to come up with that "different" path, the same way Apple did. This isn't easy, and in Apple's case it took the singular focus and brilliant mind of Steve Jobs (who also surrounded himself with some other brilliant folks). Jerry Yang needs to channel his inner Steve Jobs and come up with a way to totally reinvent the company -- and fast. The odds of him being able to do so seem slim, but if he can't, he should have just taken the last Microsoft offer.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John, May 5th, 2008 @ 12:53am

    So all they have to do...

    Is advertise an inferior product out the wazoo and a bunch of idiots will switch to them yep sounds like a great business plan to me.

     

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  2.  
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    Iron Chef, May 5th, 2008 @ 1:02am

    That's great, Mike! I was just reading that article about Michael Dell an hour ago. (No Source?)

    So another point made in that other article was that 1 Apple Company is worth 4 Dell Co's. But it also mentioned that operational costs at Apple are significantly higher than at Dell, but they can accomplish this by selling a better product.

    People pay substantially more for Apple because of multiple reasons, such as usability and coolness. But last I checked, Yahoo didn't have a product they charged for outside of email. So how do successfully begin charging for something they give away today (Say, Flickr or Y!IM), while growing user base?

    Then, consider moving the major revenue generator of advertising to Google. Now, it would seem that a core revenue generating business like advertising should be kept in-house, right? Business 101: Never outsource your core. If Google one day decided to raise ad rates, well, Yahoo is in a bind.

    This all seems very self destructive and makes my head hurt.

     

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  3.  
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    Shohat, May 5th, 2008 @ 2:00am

    Good one.

    Good post, great title =)

     

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  4.  
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    illegalprelude, May 5th, 2008 @ 2:04am

    A very good point. Most of all like you said, they need to avoid being bought out for less money in a few years. That will for sure spell doom for Yahoo!, having said that, is Yahoo! really in trouble? Like you said, they still pump out a nice sum of cash, I mean yes more and new things are always better but their not doing that bad. Just no Google numbers

     

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  5.  
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    Oohay!, May 5th, 2008 @ 2:19am

    Meh

    In my opinion, Yahoo! has continued more out of its massive inertia rather than any interesting product. For a long time already it has struck me as a dull and withered company and I'm probably not alone.
    I can see there is something ignominious about being swallowed by the giant MS beast after its illustrious past, but it seems that their blind ego trip will cost them dearly.

     

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  6.  
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    Steve Bridenthal, May 5th, 2008 @ 4:49am

    Micro-hoo?????

     

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  7.  
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    Charming Charlie, May 5th, 2008 @ 5:03am

    Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    Is there an article somewhere that explains what Steve Jobs did that was so revolutionary?

    This is just based on personal research of course... The only time someone has told me a Macintosh was superior was for Final Cut Pro. The rest of the time it was people like my girlfriend who bought an iBook because it's "exactly what a college student needs," or iPods just because they became synonomous with "mp3 player." For the iPhone, people with too much disposable cash and want an iGadget?

    Am I mistaken in thinking that the success of Apple outside of Final Cut Pro is pure marketing?

     

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  8.  
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    Jeff, May 5th, 2008 @ 5:22am

    Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    "Am I mistaken in thinking that the success of Apple outside of Final Cut Pro is pure marketing?"

    Yes you are.

     

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  9.  
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    Vincent Clement, May 5th, 2008 @ 5:26am

    Maybe this is part of Microsoft's strategy. Let Yahoo implode, have Jerry Yang ousted, and pick up the pieces at a bargain price.

     

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  10.  
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    Vincent Clement, May 5th, 2008 @ 5:30am

    Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    Marketing is everything.

    If you read Mike's posts, you know that innovation consists of invention and marketing. You can invent an amazing product or service, but without the right type of marketing you are dead in the water.

     

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  11.  
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    OhPlease, May 5th, 2008 @ 5:32am

    You forgot to mention the significance of Apple OS X and Retail

    Switching to OS X was painful and important to Apple's eventual success, and I would venture to say Apple Retail was critical.

    Apple Retail will probably be known as the most successful Retail launch of a company in that industry's history... reaching $1B in sales and profitability in only 3 years, forcing its competitors out of business, forging the critical path for customers to learn more about its products, and deliver service as innovatively with its Genius Bars as it does with its promotion.

    Just a last note here, composed of a number of processes, "Marketing" is getting your product to market. Those comments here and elsewhere that deride marketing are at best naive.

     

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  12.  
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    rwahrens (profile), May 5th, 2008 @ 5:44am

    investors best interests

    Sometimes the investor's best interests aren't immediately obvious.

    This merger would have taken the lion's share of Microsoft's cash reserves. It would have forced the management of both companies to focus on that merger for at least two years, distracting them at a time when they both need full attention on the road ahead in order to keep in business.

    It would, in short, have been disastrous to both Yahoo and Microsoft investors. Yahoo's management did what they are supposed to do - keep the investors' interests in mind as they negotiate in these situations.

    It isn't just the money - if a merger would destroy the entity created after the merger, it is in the best interests of the investors for the management to avoid the merger!

    Just because Ballmer was too stupid to see that outcome doesn't mean Yang was.

     

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  13.  
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    LesterRay, May 5th, 2008 @ 7:06am

    Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    IS THIS THE ONLY SOURCE OF NEWS AND INFORMATION YOU GET? If it is then you are truly deprived of intelligent and resourceful as well as factual and acurate news; and intellectually stimulating banter by those who are not only intimately accessible to the source to wit but are personally involved with it's success through ownership of and or use of it's products.
    Not less than a few years ago and Apple computer would not even make it into the news pages of popular magazine such as PC Magazine or even PC World, but after comments by Microsoft developers who would not trust their own personal data to a MS based PC but only to a MAC manufactured by Apple the "real world" started listening and commenting on the absolute reliability of their products, i.e. Apple.
    Search ted data bases of PC Magazine and PC World and read these for yourself and you will find my statements to be true.
    Even MS developers trust their own personal files and .docs to only Apples Mac's.

     

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  14.  
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    Eliot, May 5th, 2008 @ 7:35am

    Good Post...

    Mike, I so rarely agree 100% with your posts, but I think you hit it on the head here.

    Yahoo is still viable if they pull their head ... out of ... whatever they've got it stuck in now, but they need to do it soon.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    ""Am I mistaken in thinking that the success of Apple outside of Final Cut Pro is pure marketing?"

    Yes you are."

    He's lying. Being able to use Final Cut and a few other useful programs for video editing that don't have good PC versions (Adobe's works but isn't as good as Photoshop) there is very little a Mac can do that a PC can't that's actually better.

    People scream "vendor lock" at Microsoft, but Apple is far worse. MS just does it so you use their OS and their word processor. Apple does it for their OS, their word processor, their music, their music service, their hardware . . .

    Though for the last part they are 'kinda' changing. Though you aren't supposed to use their OS on a non-Apple branded computer still.


    ANYWAYS, they have great marketing and their have products that DO perform well. Well enough for your average joe to be amazed.

    Never underestimate style. I learned that a long time ago. As Terry Pratchett once said, give people a slogan and a uniform and their hearts and minds will follow.

     

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  16.  
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    mx_, May 5th, 2008 @ 7:38am

    YUI

    Whatever happens, I hope the YUI team keeps operating, possibly as a separate entity.

     

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  17.  
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    JGM, May 5th, 2008 @ 7:49am

    Y!?

    I wonder if anyone has tried to actually characterize Yahoo's "corporate culture"?

    I confess I have no clue about Y!'s internal workings, but from what makes it to the web, they often come across as aggressively non-innovative, poor at the basics of marketing (they are still recycling the cheesy people-having-multicultural-fun pictures from three years ago on thier email home page), and hopelessly trailing edge both technically and culturally (check out the recent "viral" LOTR feature, only FIVE YEARS after the last movie came out).

    Which, now that I think about it, may actually make them a perfect match for Microsoft's web division. . .

     

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  18.  
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    LesterRay, May 5th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    WOW, TOUCHY AREN'T WE?
    This is why this site is non-relevant. I just posted the truth to an article and it has been deleted. Nothing foul or filthy as is sometimes the case by certain users. Just the truth. This truly is a biased site...

     

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  19.  
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    vanessa, May 5th, 2008 @ 8:26am

    reinvention

    As I learned in business school, the best way to improve a company's image in the public eye is to reinvent the company. In some cases, it is as simple as changing your logo; in Yahoo's case, however, it will definitely take more than that.

    Yahoo is going to be swallowed whole if it doesn't do something. As others said above, they need to come up with a unique product or service to differentiate themselves from Google. I have accounts with both and the only thing I use Yahoo for is playing games like chess and Scrabble Blast with old friends. The only idea I have for them is to maybe capitalize on that section of the market (as Google does not offer this service), and focus on expanding their reach in that arena.

    Their image is falling hard and fast, though, so they'd better act now or lose everything.

     

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  20.  
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    mobiGeek, May 5th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    First, Apple computers are not "substantially more" expensive then equivalent PCs. Compare a good-quality PC, including OS and complete s/w add-ons to the same from Apple and you'll see that the prices are very much inline. Most articles that point out Apple as being "expensive" typically compare the cheapest Apple to the cheapest Brand X...these are in NO WAY similar systems.

    As for Yahoo!, it makes TONS of money from many different things. There is store.yahoo.com, shop.yahoo.com, advertizing, ISP, ISP partnerships, hosting, etc...

    Just because you can't see something from the homepage doesn't mean you are getting a picture of the company (http://info.yahoo.com/). It makes money, lots of money.

     

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  21.  
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    mobiGeek, May 5th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    As others have said, "yes you are".

    The main thing that Apple does well is they embody the phrase It Just Works. People may complain that Apple forces "vendor lock-in", but that is partly the point. You buy Apple hardware and software, and It Just Works.

    The OS is very nice and intuitive, plug in (or come into the vicinity of) peripherals and they Just Work too.

    The OS and software are designed to work without need for hunting around for menu items/hidden options, basically because they are designed around the most common use cases. Defaults are sane and expected values.

    Certainly Apple can do more things better, but when it comes to the typical "new computer under the christmas tree" experience, the Mac has always beaten the generic PC.

     

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  22.  
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    Mojo, May 5th, 2008 @ 11:09am

    Yahoo needs a focus, a direction... Apple became "cute & user friendly" by releasing multi-colored iMacs. I know it seems hard to believe, but multiple colors was the focus of the new iMac and the great marketing campaign led to them flying out the door. The iPod may have made them take off big time, but it was the multi colored iMacs and new marketing image that saved Apple.

    If Google had been failing, it's possible that Google Maps/Earth might have given them a new lease on life.

    Yahoo needs a new identity and has to pick an area to focus on and do its best to reinvent it. Right now it's trying to be "one stop shopping" for searches, news, entertainment, etc, but other sites do most of this better and people have them bookmarked. Personally, I have used Yahoo less and less and it seems more and more geared to the lowest common denomenator and reminds me of AOL.

    Yahoo needs to be Yahoo, not AOL.

     

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  23.  
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    Arasmus, May 5th, 2008 @ 1:04pm

    Yahoo Should Join Nokia

    Together Nokia and Yahoo would form a winning combination focused in the battle for the mobile internet.

     

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  24.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 5th, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Re: Why was Steve Jobs sucessful?

    WOW, TOUCHY AREN'T WE?
    This is why this site is non-relevant. I just posted the truth to an article and it has been deleted. Nothing foul or filthy as is sometimes the case by certain users. Just the truth. This truly is a biased site...


    This is a lie. We do not and have not deleted any comments from you. The only comments we delete are ones that are pure spam, and we haven't deleted any spam on this post today, so... I'm sorry, but we did not delete your comment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Nasch, May 6th, 2008 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re:

    I kept hearing this, so I figured it might be true. So when I was deciding on what kind of laptop to get I checked out Apple too. I was looking at a 15.4" or 17" Windows machine, topping out around $800 or maybe $900 retail I think (I have access to an employee discount so I was paying less). Know how much Apple's cheapest laptop was? Over a thousand. IIRC it was about $1100, and that was for a 13" screen! Step up to the 17" for a cool two grand. Not kidding. When I'm comparing an HP (not brand X) new 17" laptop with dual core processor, 2GB RAM, 160GB drive, webcam, mic, bluetooth, wifi, DVD burner, for less than half what Mac charges for the same size screen... I would have to call that substantially more. I could have gotten a 20.1" screen and upgraded specs (compared to the other HPs) across the board for about what Apple wants for a 17".

    Now it could be that the Mac processor was a lot faster, or it had 802.11n instead of g, or a higher resolution display (which I could have had for another $50), or a bunch of little things that add up, but the fact is that unless you need or want those specific things, then yes the Mac costs way more. At least when you're talking about laptops.

    Is it worth it? That is a totally different discussion, but in my research I found that it's possible to get a nicely equipped Windows laptop for far less money than a Mac. And in case you're wondering, I like Apple and I am not fond of MS, so this is not MS fanboyism.

     

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