Microsoft to buy Yahoo!?

2008.02.01 14:14

Microhoo

Holy crap, I just had a geek overload waking up to the news that Microsoft has put in an unsolicited $44.6 Billion bit for Yahoo!. The news comes via Gothamist via the NY Times, and the BBC has further insight.

This is, of course, massive news. Microsoft and Yahoo! have been battling for years to take on Google, not only in search but in the growing arenas of online software, cloud computing, social bookmarking and content, photo sharing, and the real money maker, advertising. Will a team up finally be able to take on Google?

In a conference call, Microsoft’s Kevin Johnson said that the combination of the two companies would create an entity that could better compete with Google.

“Today the market [for online search and advertising] is increasingly dominated by one player,” he said.

Sounds like wishful thinking to me. Let’s examine this from a brand point of view:

Yahoo! is perhaps the quintessential internet company. They rose quickly during the 90s and become one of the most popular sites on the whole of the internet. With the aid of national advertising campaigns, people knew the name Yahoo!, along with their distinctive audio branding, long before they knew about the bubble that was about to burst. Yahoo!, being the trailblazers that they are, suffered tremendously during the bubble-burst. Their stock plummeted and they were nearly wiped off the map. But they bounced back and started to acquire smaller sites like Flickr. The brand itself is funky, quirky, hip (although not particularly well-styled) and eccentric. The name transmits much of their overall culture as a lighthearted company. While they do provide news, email, and financial information, they aren’t exactly a ‘serious’ company.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is one of the most serious companies in the tech industry. In spite of their monstrous financial success, the Microsoft brand has been on a constant slide for at least ten years. With Apple eating away at their operating system market, Firefox at their browser product, and Google at their online ventures, it’s harder and harder for ‘Mr. Softie’ to establish credibility with new and existing PC users. They are viewed as stogy, square, nerdy, corporate, and ruthless — all traits that are not terribly envious in a software, internet, or technology company. In fact, they are pretty much the mirror opposite of Google and Apple and all those little startups.

Putting the two brands together will shake up Wall St. more than Silicon Valley. Yahoo! has lost it’s lustre, and Microsoft never had it. Making the two companies one will just mean we’ll have one huge company that is generally hated, as opposed to two large companies that are tolerated, with more or less enthusiasm. Will users care? I think they will not. Since Yahoo! is such a well-known brand, I would be serious money that MS wouldn’t kill the brand and fold the functionality into MSN. In other words, you’ll still see yahoo mail, yahoo groups, etc., but maybe co-branded with Microsoft. For everyone using Yahoo!, their lives will function exactly the same.

Yahoo! may benefit from the new corporate overloads in the design sense. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Microsoft’s design sense on the web isn’t bad. I would dare say it’s better than Yahoo!’s. Perhaps Microsoft’s design team will help kick the Yahoo! pages up a few notches, and join the two with an overall graphic style.

Yahoo! Groups
Yahoo! Groups, pretty lame interface

MSN Hotmail
MSN Hotmail, kinda dull, but not bad looking.

Will this affect your day-to-day? How do you feel this will change both of these well-known online brands.

  • http://mkeefedesign.com/blog/ Matthew Keefe

    Oh great, this goes in and we can pretty much be guaranteed that PHP will be replaced by ASP behind the scenes at Y!. I am sure we can also say bye to the outstanding development support that Y! has offered for many years now.

  • http://mkeefedesign.com/blog/ Matthew Keefe

    Oh great, this goes in and we can pretty much be guaranteed that PHP will be replaced by ASP behind the scenes at Y!. I am sure we can also say bye to the outstanding development support that Y! has offered for many years now.

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