It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…

Check out this snapshot of Techmeme today. As is typically the case, Google scratches it’s left ear lobe and an entire industry of bloggers kicks into gear dissecting what it means. The NYTimes claims it’s a Microsoft Sharepoint killer while Allen Stern declares they are going after pbWiki. The AP wire report, which also runs in the NYT has a somewhat different view of this, calling it a website builder. Rafe Needleman makes the observation that it’s a nice wiki even though Google never uses the word wiki. TechCrunch also calls it a wiki and quotes a Google exec calling it a “Sharepoint killer”.

So what do we know for certain: it’s a wiki and they are targeting Sharepoint. What is not said? Sharepoint is much more than a wiki, it’s probably more accurately referred to as a portal, and the wiki features are acknowledged by MSoft to be very weak. Microsoft does feature wikis from both Socialtext and Atlassian as add-ons for Sharepoint, lending credibility to the notion that they don’t see themselves as competitive in the wiki space.

Google could in fact take on Sharepoint but it’s going to take a lot more than a better wiki to do it. For starters, I would make Google Sites an OpenSocial container, which should not be too difficult given the fact that the same people were involved in both projects.

Google Apps is in total a threat but at some point Google is going to have to do something more meaningful than the bits-n-pieces act. Dan points out that Google is fighting the stigma of offering lightweight apps, but as long as they fail to release numbers such as how many companies are actually paying Google for premium apps, it’s unlikely that the market will take them seriously. Businesses are not moved by the notion of free apps because buying an application really isn’t the barrier companies face, it’s supporting users and meeting requirements.


Yahoo Board To Determine Fate Of Company Today

Mike offers a pretty good analysis of the current choice that Yahoo is facing. One thing that really represents the strategic blunder on the part of Yahoo’s Board is that they allowed a full week to pass without substantive comment or marketplace movement and that only reinforced the point that nobody outside of Microsoft wants this company. It is sad to say this, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

At this point Microsoft could lower their bid and still get this company. Not only does Yahoo have no leverage, as Mike points out, but they actually have a much weaker position than they did last week given the level of outsider investor control over the stock. If I were contemplating a shareholder lawsuit I would argue that the Board breached a number of duties that ultimately led not only to a loss of shareholder value through the operations of the company (which happens, let’s not go overboard) but more directly through their dysfunctional response this last week.

This is emblematic of Yahoo in recent years, despite having loads of cash they could never achieve focus and/or remake the company in a new image. Some would argue, and it’s a valid point, that they company didn’t need a makeover, what it needed was a shared sense of purpose that drove the majority of their business decisions. Who knows but those inside the company.

But before we pile on the criticisms we should look at the positives here. Yahoo’s brand is outstanding and the company has accomplished much this far, not the least of which is building a company worth $43 billion to Microsoft. Despite having the public optics of the Keystone Cops, the management team did deliver 10% operating margins and a 7% return on equity, as well as a very stable balance sheet, in a very competitive environment.

Lastly, what will be interesting to watch is whether or not Microsoft actually follows through on this bid.

Sources have indicated to us that Yahoo has scheduled a special board of directors meeting on Friday to determine, effectively, the fate of the company. After a week of hectic negotiating, it’s clear that no one is going to step in with a competing acquisition offer to what Microsoft put on the table last Friday – $31 per share. Softbank, the last real chance for a competing bid, bowed out today and said they would not be challenging the Microsoft offer.

[From Yahoo Board To Determine Fate Of Company Today]

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Yahoo!, Microsoft at Wikinvest

Yahoo says it needs time to mull Microsoft offer

I haven’t commented on the MSFT/YHOO thing because, well there seemed to be no lack of opinions so why bother. Having said that, this response from Yahoo is pretty lame… they probably should have just come out and said “we need time to put together some friendly counter offers”.

Yahoo Inc said it may take “quite a bit of time” to weigh its strategic options, including keeping the company independent, following Microsoft Corp’s $45 billion offer to buy the company.

[From Yahoo says it needs time to mull Microsoft offer | Reuters]

Given the number of disappointed shareholders, including yours truly, Microsoft could very well succeed in a tender offer much like Oracle did with Peoplesoft. Institutional investors control 80% of the float on this stock and own 71% of the outstanding shares.

One very interesting thing to watch will be what the private equity guys do, but it’s hard to imagine raising this kind of debt in this kind of market so I’d be inclined to discount their status as a player here.

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Yahoo!, Microsoft at Wikinvest

It’s What Is INSIDE the Machine that Counts

Mossberg says that Dell’s XPS One has the right stuff… still needs to be decrapified.

In my tests, I found the XPS One to be much better designed and equipped than Gateway’s iMac competitor, also called the One. In fact, the Dell XPS One is the first Windows all-in-one desktop I’ve tested that I believe matches or exceeds the iMac in hardware design. That’s no small feat, especially coming from Dell. [From Dell’s All-in-One PC Has the Guts, Design to Compete With iMac | Walt Mossberg | Personal Technology | AllThingsD]

More on this topic (What's this?)
Dell’s Retail Surge - DELL, HPQ
Dell Weighs On Tech
If Only Michael Dell Had Listened to the Numbers
Read more on Dell, Expansys at Wikinvest

The Day the Music Stopped

This post could also be called “the day DRM jumped the shark”. The momentum has definitely turned in favor of getting rid of DRM altogether, let’s hope that consumers vote with their dollars and choose DRM free content and hardware whenever possible. DRM free is a relative term but still represents an ideal we should reward content providers for enabling.

Microsoft’s PlaysForSure DRM just took another step closer to the grave with the help of some rebranding. Those of you with players from SanDisk, Nokia, and Creative among others, looking for compatible music from Napster, Real Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, Wal-Mart and such must now look for the “Certified for Windows Vista” logo, not PlaysForSure. Of course, Microsoft’s Zune is also certified for Windows Vista, just not certified for Windows Vista so it won’t play back the same protected files. Man, could DRM get any more consumer unfriendly? [From Microsoft rebrands PlaysForSure to Certified For Windows Vista, confuses world – Engadget]