<IT WORLD> Google spits the dummy
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Unless you've been asleep all week, you'll already know the
big tech story and may be considering the implications of Microsoft's US$44.6
billion bid for Internet stalwart Yahoo!, which has been around since the
beginning of the commercial web. The root cause of this bid, according to a
number of analysts, is Google, which is certainly not taking this news lying
The magic figure offered by Microsoft is based on $31 per share, which was 62%
more than the stock's most recent closing price. This makes any attempt by
Yahoo to inflate the price or fight for its independence a tough move to make.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the buyout could be completed by
the end of
the year. He rejected suggestions that the takeover would be anti-competitive
and continued to state that the creation of a more powerful "number two" to
Google on the Internet would be good for consumers.
The scale of the proposed deal has analysts aflutter as they reach for their
hype boxes. "If it goes ahead, the Microsoft and Yahoo merger would be one of
the major events in the history of the Internet," stated Alex Burmaster from
Nielsen Online, an Internet media and market research firm. Tech blogs have
been hot with speculation on a possible amalgamation of 250 million Hotmail
users and 300 million Yahoo users and whether Microsoft will simply consume its
latest acquisition or focus on the overlapping services, clean out the
redundancies and concentrate on what each company currently does best.
The fact is that Yahoo has been struggling recently with a falling share price
and having to cut its workforce. It simply cannot ignore Microsoft's offer.
Some even say the deal represents a show of confidence by Microsoft in the
straggling Internet company. Yahoo founder Jerry Yang has tried to reassure
staff with a circulated email stating "absolutely no decisions have been made.
This proposal is just that - a proposal, you can be sure the board is going to
review it thoughtfully and carefully, and do what's right for our great
Google, which already has over half the share of the global search market and
more than both Microsoft and Yahoo combined,
formally responded on its official blog this week. David Drummond,
Google's senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer,
stated, "Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo raises troubling questions."
Troubling indeed if you look at what a combined force of "Microhoo!" or
"Yahsoft" may be capable of.
Google's official response appears loaded with hypocrisy if you read deeper
into it; the cyber dummy has been spat. "This is about more than simply a
financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving
the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation," stated
Drummond, who seemed to neglect to mention the fact that Google's web ranking
system and algorithms are a closely guarded secret that play tens of thousands
of web developers across the globe like puppets on virtual strings, struggling
to keep up with what will appease the almighty search god this month.
The statement went on to ponder on the premise of more control over Internet
portals, email, communications and personal computers by the two rivals should
they merge; it failed to take into account that Google is doing exactly the
same with its recent foray into the mobile-phone market, among other avenues.
It's all very well Google ranting about an "evil empire" and innovation when it
is wealthy enough simply to buy it up at will and envelop other companies such
as YouTube, Blogger, Picasa and DoubleClick, to name a few. Google may even be
considering offering its own partnership with Yahoo, but a bid would be out of
the question due to antitrust constraints. What Google really has its eye on is
Yahoo's search advertising division which, if outsourced, would yield greater
profits for both search companies and leave Microsoft in the dust in that
Advertising is a key factor, as Yahoo and Microsoft combined would be able to
compete far better for paid search revenues than they can as individual
companies. Google has over 80% of the search share in many European countries
and almost 60% in the US. Internet research company IDC stated that Google has
more than 32% of the US online advertising market, and a combined Microsoft and
Yahoo company would have nearly 23%.
Both potential partners also have strong ties to the popular social networking
craze that is taking over the Internet. Microsoft has bought a stake in
Facebook and serves ads there while Yahoo possesses other popular social
networking platforms such as Flickr, Delicious and Yahoo Answers. Together they
could offer some serious competition to the Google steamroller. However, this
is unlikely to happen for a couple of years, in which time the search behemoth
won't be waiting around. The jousting will continue, but the more light that
gets shone onto this market will only reveal how much dominance Google already
has in it.
Microsoft has rolled out its Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista to manufacturing
this week. The first annual update for the operating system is long overdue and
it is hoped by the software giant that the glitches will be ironed out and more
people will make the switch.
First impressions by analysts and testers are not favorable. While file
transfer speed seems to have been improved, many other annoyances seem to
linger. Installation, for one, takes a while and requires a number of reboots,
and many of the obtrusive security alerts and reminders still remain. A slew of
new websites and applications has been released since the emergence of Vista to
help users clean out the bloat and streamline the system. Microsoft will
release the official SP1 as a download and integrate it into new systems with
the operating system in March.
Conspiracy theorists have had a field day over the recent Internet cable cuts
in the Mediterranean following reports of further damage to cables compromising
Internet access in the Middle East. With reports claiming up to five cables
have been cut or damaged within a week, its no surprise that the blogosphere
has been a hotbed of speculation that this is the prelude to World War III.
Everyone from Islamic extremists to the US Central Intelligence Agency has been
blamed, but the explanation is far more likely to be something as benign as a
fishing boat anchor. Cable repair company Global Marine Systems stated,
"Undersea cable damage is hardly rare; more than 50 repair operations were
mounted in the Atlantic alone last year. But last week's breaks came at one of
the world's bottlenecks, where Net traffic for whole region is funneled along a
Other misinformation comes from the misreporting of how many cables were
actually cut. Some publications seem to have counted one twice and other
sources attribute bandwidth bottlenecks to power outages and not scuba diving
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.