The Possessing.

In rescuing Yahoo, Bill Gates rescues Microsoft

By Frank A Hilario

Bill Gates is human; he desires Yahoo! ‘Desire creates the power,’ says Raymond Holliwell. ‘What makes the engine go? Desire, desire, desire,’ says Stanley Kunitz. ‘We always long for the forbidden things,’ says Francois Rabelais, ‘and desire what is denied us.’ Bill Gates dreams of the possessing. So don’t be surprised about Microsoft’s giant shout at Yahoo! at 44.6 B decibels to drown out any other noise that may disturb the possessing.

Noise abating, let’s play 20 Questions:

(1) US$44.6 Billion. Does Microsoft's audacious bid for Yahoo reveal the extent of Microsoft’s failure to adapt to the Internet age? (‘Microsoft and Yahoo: Perfect Partners?Darren Waters, bbc.co.uk/blogs). ‘This is about gearing up for the Second Internet Age – an age where commerce, community and communications are dominated by the Web.’ Not by Microsoft.

(2) Is the business model for the advertising industry outdated and only Google has the answer that Microsoft wants? (‘Levy says advertising model is outdated in digital age,’ Maurice Levy, Publicis Groupe Chief Executive, talking to Jacquie Bowser, brandrepublic.com). Publicis is planning to swap staff with Google and ‘pool their respective creative and technical knowhow to benefit clients.’ Google thinks much better and far ahead of the competition. Microsoft is competition.

(3) With the Yahoo buyout, will Microsoft leapfrog competitor Google? (‘Roundtable: Four experts dissect the Microsoft bid for Yahoo,’ Scott M Fulton III, betanews.com). ‘I think Microsoft has Google on the brain,’ says Jarvis Coffin, Burst Media CEO, ‘and it absolutely sees this as a way to close the gap between itself and its principal competitor in terms of size and stature online, Google’ (Jarvis talking to Scott). Jarvis, if you dissect, you’re thinking critically like Microsoft, not creatively. That's the problem with Microsoft.

(4) Will Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp help Microsoft acquire Yahoo? (‘Yahoo pulls together Rebel Alliance,’ Keith Regan, ecommercetimes.com). Microsoft is working on a joint plan with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp on a combined acquisition plan. Birds of a feather pluck together.

(5) Why doesn’t Microsoft buy AOL instead? (‘An Alternative For MSFT: Buy AOL and MySpace,’ Charles DiBona, Bernstein Research, talking to Eric Savitz, blogs.barrons.com). Because it would be much cheaper? Charles, cheaper is in the Microsoft Encarta Dictionaries, but not in Bill Gates’ vocabulary.

(6) Why is Yahoo testing Google AdSense and making Microsoft wait impatiently? (‘Yahoo and Microsoft Circle in Game of Musical Chairs,’ Jennifer LeClaire, sci-tech-today.com). Trying to make Microsoft come up with more money? No, Jennifer, trying to get Bill’s goat. You know, the prick before the fall?

(7) Is Yahoo with Google AdSense and no buyout a win-win-win situation for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo? (‘The devil went down to Yahoo!Rick Aristotle Munarriz, fool.com). With such an arrangement, Google generates more ad money, Yahoo generates higher-margin profits, and Microsoft doesn’t spend for a costly acquisition. Yes, Rick, but if you don’t know it now, you’ll never know: To Microsoft, money is no object!

(8) Is it a done deal? (‘Desperate Times, Desperate Measures,’ Jim Goldman, cnbc.com). It’s cash on hand, not an IOU. Jim, the Yahoo stockholders can resist anything except temptation.

(9) Is this a classic good vs evil fight? (‘Good vs. Evil? Yahoo, Google and AOL vs Microsoft and News Corp,’ Farhad Manjoo, machinist.salon.com). ‘This is business, people, not a morality play.’ Translation: It’s Microsoft, people, not a morality play.

(10) Has Yahoo management lost its credibility in terms of execution and strategy? (Laura Martin, quoted in ‘Reports: Microsoft, News Corp. Team Up in Unholy Alliance,’ Betsy Schiffman, blog.wired.com). They think so. ‘We think shareholders would prefer to cash out.’ Laura, a Bill in the hand is worth two in the Box.

(11) Will a Google-Yahoo partnership ‘make the market far less competitive’ – unlike Microsoft acquiring Yahoo? (Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft; talking to Keith Regan, cited). Not true. Brad, you know that when people deal with Microsoft, people are always far less competitive.

(12) Is the Yahoo-Google AdSense 2-week test designed to up the ante for Microsoft to buy out Yahoo? (Peter Cohan, Peter S Cohan & Associates, talking to Regan). ‘But I question whether the integration of these businesses could be managed effectively.’ Peter, that is if you are thinking of integrating those businesses. You are not thinking like the world’s richest man. Integrating is the least of his worries.

(13) Does the $44.6 B offer represent more than 60% premium to Yahoo!’s share at the time the offer was made? (David Mitchell Smith, talking to Regan). ‘The question is whether the price Yahoo will take is in Microsoft’s comfort zone.’ David, Microsoft will only find comfort in buying out Yahoo.

(14) Is Google the best bet in targeting online advertising? (‘Don't forget Google!Paul R La Monica, cnnmoney.com). Google is doing a good job of getting rid of low-quality ads that only boost click counts. And making Bill Gates jealous, very jealous.

(15) Is Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo an act of surrender? (‘Why Microsoft's bid for Yahoo is an act of surrender,’ Andrew Leonard, salon.com). ‘Try as it might, Microsoft cannot gain ground on Google – the company that currently claims ownership of the soul of Silicon Valley.’ Andrew, Microsoft has always been good at using OPM – other people’s minds, so watch out! At least, they're using their head.

(16) Will refusal to deal with Microsoft result in a Yahoo shareholder rebellion? (‘Yahoo can’t say No. The logic of Microsoft's brilliant bid,’ Henry Blodget, slate.com). The Yahoo Board has no choice. Watch out if it were a Microsoft rebellion instead.

(17) Is Google a search company? (‘Disruptive Forces: Google,’ Chris Gonsalves, baselinemag.com). ‘Google doesn’t have all the ideas for business on the Internet – just the good ones.’ And the best idea Microsoft has is to buy Google’s rival and seal all exits. The Monotony of Monopoly.

(18) Did Microsoft blunder giving Yahoo a 3-week ultimatum to respond to the buyout offer? (‘Major Yahoo investor blasts Microsoft threat: report,’ Bill Miller, Legg Mason Inc, talking to Benjamin Pimentel, marketwatch.com). ‘By threatening to lower its bid, Microsoft may have alienated Yahoo’s shareholders.’ So, who else is left? Microsoft has already alienated everybody else.

(19) Is it in the best interest of Yahoo shareholders for Microsoft to buy Yahoo? (‘Straight Talk for Ballmer From One Yahoo Holder,’ James B Stewart, online.wsj.com). This is James’ open letter to Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft Corp. So, Steve, ‘why don’t you tell us what you’re really prepared to pay, and we’ll call it a deal.’ James, what Microsoft wants is a deal, a win-win situation – either way, Microsoft wins.

(20) Isn’t it time for Microsoft to give up trying to buy out Yahoo? (‘It's time for Microsoft to give up on the Yahoo deal,’ Preston Gralla, blogs.computerworld.com). ‘It’ll only weigh down Microsoft with a sinking company.’ Preston, you miss the point of the whole exercise; they are not trying to rescue Yahoo – they are trying to rescue Microsoft! From the has-been of history. Bill Gates can deal with failure - he is Harvard's most successful dropout, remember? So, he's dealing with being #3 by becoming #2. Today, Yahoo! Tomorrow, the world?

When you deal with Microsoft, you have to learn to think more creatively. And you have to learn to think critically and accept the reality:

What Bill Gates wants, Bill gets.

Now, what exactly does Bill Gates want? That’s the first intelligent question anyone has asked this week.

And certainly, Google has the answer. David Drummond, Senior Vice President for Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer of Google himself says (‘Yahoo and the future of the Internet,’ googleblog.blogspot.com):

The openness of the Internet is what made Google – and Yahoo! – possible. A good idea that users find useful spreads quickly. Businesses can be created around the idea. Users benefit from constant innovation. It's what makes the Internet such an exciting place.

My 44.6 B Yeses to that. It inspires me to chant

My Paean to the Internet
The Internet is the greatest invention of man;
it is the real, the greatest Artificial Intelligence that
the AI people missed, thinking critically.
Thinking better, it is an open mind,
and when it works as a creative force,
it is magical,
and that is why it is an electrifying place
even while it is everywhere.
It is owned by everyone but not anyone.
It is unfettered by claims of territory by wise men
with their commandments of industry standards.
It is not the empire of the mind of one man
or one management.
It is the empire of all.
Thank God for the Internet!

Today, among other things, we have through the Internet – I will not mention games because I don’t play games – Auslogics, Flickr, Friendster, MySpace, WordPress, LiveJournal, Webshots, Pandora, iTunes, YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Google News, Google Books, Google Earth, Google AdSense … Google, Google, Google! That’s what gets Bill’s goat.

Remember PCDOS? Operating system, IBM. Remember Netscape? Browser, Mosaic Communications. Remember WordPerfect? Word processing program, WordPerfect Corp. Remember Lotus 1-2-3? Spreadsheet, Lotus Development Corp. Remember Quattro Pro? Another spreadsheet, Borland. Remember dBase? Database programming, Ashton-Tate. They were all innovative, all running well, thank you very much, until they were run over by software from Microsoft. Now all we have are Windows, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, Excel, Access running all over the place. Microsoft has the monopoly of the creative force of the PC World. It all started when the brainy PC experts agreed on ‘industry standards.’

I’ll tell you about those silly industry standards. Do you notice that most Microsoft application software – I’m using Microsoft Word 2003 right now – have this impractical menu?

FILE EDIT VIEW INSERT FORMAT TOOLS TABLE WINDOW HELP

Do you now know why this software is difficult to use? There is no method to the madness. Like:

(1) There is no logical arrangement of the steps in the creation of a document, if you know what I mean. The verbs come with the nouns. The verbs: Edit, View, Insert, Format. The nouns: File, Tools, Table, Help. They are not even grouped as such.
(2) You have to be a programmer to know how to use the software. And you’re a beginner, dummy.
(3) So, which menu to click when you want to write a letter?
(4) How do you print a page?
(5) How do you change the margins?
(6) How do you search and replace? (Assuming you know the term ‘search and replace.’)
(7) How do you save a file?

The menus stare at you, unthinking, unblinking;
FILE EDIT VIEW INSERT FORMAT TOOLS TABLE WINDOW HELP.
Still, in today’s PC World, you have to believe in Microsoft – you have no choice. Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to believe!

We all owe all that to the dominant Microsoft Culture in the world of individual desktop computers.

Remembering those and others, Google’s David Drummond asks the right questions about desktop computers linked to each other in the Internet, the world of interconnected individual desktop computers:

So Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.

Microsoft is not known for openness and innovation, no.

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies – and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

The story of DOS becoming Windows is a good example of leveraging dominance. That’s not a crime, but it stultifies ingenuity and originality, what David refers to as ‘innovation.’

Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft – despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses – to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet? In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions – and consumers deserve satisfying answers.

David’s most disturbing question is this: ‘Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services?’

Rewritten, it reads like this: ‘Could a combination of Microsoft and Yahoo take advantage of Microsoft’s PC software monopoly and limit everyone’s access to the Internet?’

No David, Could is not the question; When is. Didn’t I already say? What Bill Gates wants, Bill gets. And Steve Ballmer? He’s Bill Gates without the hair.

Fair warning: ‘There are two tragedies in life,’ says George Bernard Shaw in Man and Superman, Act 4. ‘One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.’

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