Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Fantasy League Pick for Yahoo's Board: Steve Jobs

Over 11 years ago, after seeing one of the release candidates for Windows 98, I wrote “The browser wars are over, Microsoft won.” I took a lot of heat from the Netscape and Mac faithful, but at the time it was obvious that whatever the default was in the late 90s was going to win.

That was one prediction that I got right. But saying “the search wars are over, Google won” isn’t a prediction, but rather a statement of what already happened. Here’s a screen shot from a recent day’s worth of search traffic for TVbytheNumbers:

If search is the focus, combining Yahoo and Microsoft doesn’t really make up much ground. I’m mostly for Yahoo staying a separate entity because it has such massive scale overall. It’s lagging in search, but its other properties ranging from mail, to MyYahoo, to Yahoo sports perform very well. My theory, boneheaded as it may be, is with that much scale you ought to be able to figure out how to make more money. The one problem I have with the combination isn’t really Microsoft, it’s that combining the companies doesn’t seem like it will wind up increasing the scale that much.

Today Fred Wilson posted a list of board members he’d like to see in light of Carl Ichan’s recommendations. To be honest, I’d rather see Mark Cuban than a lot of Fred’s recommendations. Though I loved Fred’s pick of Bill Gross, overall there are too many deep-thinking smart people on his list. I’m not sure anything ever gets accomplished when you throw that many deep thinkers in a room. And with the mix of people Fred recommends I’d worry about the testosterone warrior mentality of making Google the target of all strategy. I think that would be a bad strategy. I’ve seen what happens when companies make their major competitor the sole focus, and it doesn’t usually work out well.

The one guy I’d really like to see on Yahoo’s board if we’re doing fantasy league is Apple’s Steve Jobs. Think about it. Apple stopped making Microsoft its direct focus, all doing so got it was the need to ask for Microsoft’s help to bail it out! Which Microsoft did.

It took a while, but then came the iPod and now Mac and its OS are very steadily gaining share too. The Apple Store? A retail hit! The Microsoft Store? Not so much. Jobs seemingly knows how to ride these things out better than anyone. Marc Andreesen may be a great product guy and Tim O’Reilly may be a genius at seeing the future. But Jobs has the practical experience of actually surviving something similar.

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