Imitation game goes on as Google chief joins Yahoo!
Even the past master of copying and improving on others’ early work, Microsoft, doesn’t seem to quite pull it off these days. When Microsoft copied Google in the early days of Bing, it didn’t shake the world. The company’s new touch-enabled operating system, Windows RT, is winning positive critical reviews, but only when it chooses to arch away from Apple’s pervasive influence on tablet user interfaces.
Mayer is already receiving plenty of advice from armchair executives on the internet. But I don’t think she needs to listen to much more than her own voice. The big question hanging over Yahoo is not who they should copy, but what is the material they have to work with? Jobs effectively asked the same question when he spoke to Yahoo employees. Are you a media company or a tech company, he asked. He also said he knew which he’d rather be.
At the time, executives couldn’t give him an answer. They still couldn’t when they announced Mayer’s move. Yahoo’s chief financial officer,Tim Morese, told reporters: “Our new CEO Marissa brings a strong tech background, but we also have exceptional and deep media expertise here as well. We’ve got to combine them. It’s a powerful combination when we get it right.”
My own feeling is that Yahoo has always been a terrible media company. It has attempted to bring in alien DNA and different games (to mix my metaphors) from Los Angeles and the US news and entertainment industry. If you want a media company, you don’t start from Silicon Valley.
Mayer must know there’s still room for a different rhythm, another alternative in the tech industry. Yahoo remains a company with no apparent soul but rooms upon rooms of brilliant people and wasted talent. What they need is solidarity, support and a fresh dose of enthusiasm.
Really, what these contemporary games of shuffling and rearranging represent is an attempt to inspire; an attempt to buoy up and fire up the real creative talents that lie at the heart of successful tech companies. Jobs could do it because of who he was. Microsoft stumbled when Gates left.
Mayer is somebody who a lot of technologists look up to because of her mix of engineering and management, and the sense that she’s been sidelined just a little in the Sergey Brin and Larry Page show at Google. Now is her moment to shine.