Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some people never learn...

The Wall Street Journal is claiming that Microsoft has it's MOJO back. Microsoft's Director of BusDev is turning up the PR hype machine. But haven't we all heard this song and dance before, especially after two internet or media giants merge?

SynOptics & Wellfleet
3COM and US Robotics
AOL and Time Warner
Lucent and Alcatel

So why will this one fail as well?
  1. Geographic distance - Seattle and Santa Clara are both in the same timezone, but even technology like Telepresence or Halo isn't going to recreate the impromptu water-cooler meetings where most strategy gets originated.
  2. Cultural differences - An Internet company and an Enterprise (and failed Internet) company. Oil and water don't mix.
  3. Don't buy the Competition - People matter, and people that were competitors the day before don't easily become friends with "the enemy". This is a great way to have the best people from either company leave. And this little tidbit of detail won't make things any easier.
  4. Lack of Innovation - While Bing is new, and contains some interesting technology, it's not a leap forward. It's an incremental difference that isn't sustained by superior scale or cost savings.
  5. Lack of Problem Solving or Value Creation - Microsoft has tons of cash. Yahoo has tons of users. Neither could figure out how to bring new value to the business in the face of Google's growth. Merging the two doesn't create any new value for customers.
I was at Cisco for about 125 acquisitions. We didn't get all of them right (maybe 15-20% were big hits), but we made sure to try and meet each of those criteria before pulling the trigger.

In the digital world of the 21st century, scale is critical, but innovation trumps all. The media loves a big story, but rarely do shareholder benefit long-term when financial engineering replaces innovation.
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