So Peter Oppenheimer has been our point man watching the Microhoo deal, and he’s predicted all along that it wouldn’t ever take place, for reasons I first pointed out in my now-classic essay entitled Monkey Boy’s three-legged race.
The truly scary take-away from all this, however, is what this botched attempt says about Ballmer as a CEO and Microsoft as a company. The Borgflacks have spent the better part of the past decade trying to change the image of their monstrous overlord. They’ve worked their asses off to make the Borg appear more friendly, more open, more willing to learn from others. This is straight out of the PR 101 playbook, which says that big companies are scary; big evil companies are even scarier; but big evil clumsy companies are the scariest of all. Nobody wants a big teetering giant stumbling through their market threatening to topple over and wipe out entire neighborhoods by accident. But that’s what Microsoft has become — the big stupid retarded giant lurching into the Valley, like King Kong with a lobotomy and a shotgun and a bottle of tequila, stomping around and beating its chest and then stumbling away, having wiped out most of the city.
And what of Ballmer himself? I’ll try to put this politely. He looks like a fucking idiot. The assault on Yahoo was first and foremost an admission that Microsoft has totally fucked up its attempts to build an Internet business. Everybody knew that, of course, but it’s still usually not a good idea to draw attention to your weaknesses.
Then just last week Ballmer started saying that he’d just figured out that his rank and file didn’t like the deal and were dreading it. Like, dude, shouldn’t you have realized that three months ago, before you gathered your army and made noise of war only to shrink away? It’s like Caesar getting all his dudes lined up on the Rubicon and then going, Um, you know what? Let’s not do this after all. Or to use a polite version of the metaphor that Larry used with me on the phone this morning, Ballmer looks like a guy who’s in need of a little Viagra.
The papers reported this morning that maybe this is all part of some nefarious master plan and Ballmer is just trying to crater Yahoo’s stock and drive them back to the table. I doubt it, but if so, we’re back to problem #1 — the image of the Borg as this big stupid giant that has nothing better to do than to lurch into the Valley and wreak havoc and tamper with the stock prices of other companies and send everyone into a kerfuffle. This is now what passes for the Microsoft business plan?
What seems more likely to me is that Ballmer launched this dumbass takeover offer without thinking it through well enough. This, then, is what Microsoft has become. A pathetic, impotent, washed-up old giant, easily rebuffed. It might almost be funny if it weren’t so sad. I mean come on. Stirring up the shit and wasting everyone’s time and then walking away? Out of all the things you could do as a company, that’s the best idea you have?
Others are reporting (see CNET story here) that Monkey Boy may have other victims in his sights. Top targets are Facebook, MySpace and AOL. Not to acquire them, mind you. Just to make a dumb offer and fuck things up for a few months and then walk away.
Great work, Monkey Boy. You’re the laughingstock of our industry. Turns out this video was a lot more prophetic than we knew: