In wondering whether the Microsoft-Yahoo soap opera has reached its merciful end, especially for beleaguered Yahoo employees and shareholders, Robert X. Cringely sees through the transparent posturing of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
First, there’s Ballmer’s official response at Microsoft’s earnings call this week:
“It didn’t work out, fine, we’re done, we can move on. Does that mean nobody will ever talk to anybody again? I suspect the answer to that is also no. It’s a long time and a big world, but we are moving on.”
Quiz: How do you know Steve Ballmer is spreading more fear, uncertainty, and doubt? His vocal chords are engaged.
Ballmer, with corporate-raider Carl Icahn’s willing or inadvertent connivance, is attempting to generate enough fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Yahoo’s viability so as to engender further downward pressure on the company’s stock price and valuation. When Yahoo finally reaches its nadir, Ballmer hopes to pick up the remnants for a badly warbled song. (Hey, Steve loves to croon, as past videos make clear.)
Then again, it might not be necessary for Microsoft to pick Yahoo’s emaciated carcass .
Microsoft contends that search — and, by extension, search advertising — is a two-horse race, with Google currently playing the part of a Triple Crown winner and Microsoft plodding behind like a second-rate claiming nag. If Yahoo were to fall off the face of the planet, or to gradually fade off the charts as a result of attrition and customer defection, Microsoft would benefit, if only be taking some of the share left behind by an erstwhile rival.
Yes, Steve Balllmer is clever and shrewd. But he’s transparent enough that Yahoo and its shareholders should be able to see through the cynical act.