Even those of us who
do not share the paranoia and hatred that Microsoft provokes are worried about
the software giant’s bid for Yahoo.
It is nothing to do
with fear of monopoly – it is a bit too late for that. It is, believe it or
not, genuine concern about Microsoft.
The company’s strength
has always been its ability to develop software that, for all its faults, is
reasonably easy to use and to adapt. To do this requires a culture of
innovation. That culture, and its intellectual property, are Microsoft’s
It is harder to
identify Yahoo’s tangible assets. It has no culture of innovation and no
particularly important intellectual property. All it has is market share.
Market share is, of
course, important, but it is also ephemeral. It can be built from nothing by a
combination of talent and being in the right place at the right time. It can
also disappear overnight. All depends on the flair of the marketing and
management teams. This is not something for which Microsoft are famous.
The very thing that
has given Yahoo its desirable market share is the very thing that may be lost
if Microsoft takes over. The inevitable disappointment that follows will
distract Microsoft from its real mission, the development of standardised
software. Meanwhile, competition in internet search engines – an area where
more competition is required – will be reduced, and with it the rate of
Both companies, and
their shareholders – and, above all, the consumer – deserve better.