Competition Isn't War
from the scorched-earth dept
Ben Worthen theorizes that Microsoft is acquiring Yahoo not to increase its own profits but to damage Google. Worthen is suggesting that by slashing prices for its ads, Microhoo could "chip into Google’s profit center," slowing down Google's expansion. I haven't talked to Steve Ballmer about this, but I really doubt this what he has in mind. In the first place, it's not clear that aggressive price-cutting by Yahoo! would even hurt Google that much. Aggressive price-cutting only hurts your competition significantly if you've got enough inventory to satisfy the market at the new, lower price. But Yahoo! has significantly fewer eyeballs than Google, so even if Yahoo! gave away its ads for free, there would still be a lot of unmet demand that Google could cater to. Secondly, trying to "chip away at" Google's ad revenue seems like exactly the wrong way to attack Google. Google has plenty of cash on hand, and its still-astronomical share price makes it easy to raise more. Google employees have told me that the limiting factor for the company at the moment isn't money but the ability to recruit new employees.
More fundamentally, the war metaphor is misleading in this kind of discussion. In a competitive market like this one, companies make profits by creating value for their customers. Especially in a growing market like this one, there isn't a fixed pie to be divided. So there's no reason to think that lowering Google's profits would improve Microsoft's fortunes. Microsoft should acquire Yahoo! if the combined company will be more profitable than they would be separately. Obviously, competition with Google is a big factor to consider, but it gets things backwards to view hurting Google, in and of itself, as a win for Microsoft.