Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And while we’re at it …

Well when we went looking for ways to visually represent the biggest scariest dumbest nightmare merger of all time, this photo just leapt out at us. And it’s screaming out for PhotoCrank attention, don’t you think? Have fun, kids.

The Borg-Yahoo arranged marriage

Just got a call from Iulia and Natasha in Krasnodar and they say that after hearing about how miserable all of the people at both Microsoft and Yahoo are about the merger they wonder if anyone other than Ballmer actually wants this to happen. They say the Borg-Yahoo merger reminds them of one of those arranged marriages from old-fashioned novels (or from modern day Krasnodar) where neither the bride nor the groom wants it to happen but both are powerless to stop it. They suggest the photo above might be a good one to use in future stories about Microhoo instead of the one of Ballmerdog fucking Yangdog. Apparently the photo depicts the joyous first encounter between a mid-level Microsoft executive and his counterpart at Yahoo who are excitedly discussing synergies that could be achieved by combining operations and ways to leverage resources more effectively in order to deliver greater value-add and arranging a list of action items, blah blah.

Much love, Iulia and Natasha. We always appreciate your suggestions.

A reader asks

Dear Steve,
Back in August you said you were bored with the industry and you wished someone would announce a big stupid train-wreck of a merger. See here and here. You wrote at the time that you’d like to see “one of those deals where tens of billions of dollars change hands and everybody knows it’s a train wreck but the two CEOs get up and talk about their wonderful synergies and blah blah and everyone just kind of snickers and waits for the disaster to happen.” You said you wanted to see “something big and robust and incredibly stupid, with at least one but preferably two very high-profile companies doing something really, really dumb.” My question to you, Dear Leader, is simply this: Does Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo fulfill these conditions?
Signed, Steve Dowling

Dear Steve Dowling,
Thank you for your letter. The answer is a resounding Yes. Microsoft taking over Yahoo is beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s a wet dream brought to life. Thanks for the question. And I love your horns and beard braid. The new look is really working for you.

Yahoo: Borg deal is "frosting on a double-layer suck cake."

Yup. They’re really excited about the deal. I do feel for the poor bastards. I mean the last few years have been pretty shitty at Yahoo, first with Terry “I Have No Idea” Semel and more recently with the return of the Yang. I know when I spoke there a few months back the audience was so depressed I couldn’t believe it. I told Jerry to start putting Prozac in the drinking water. Well, Yahoo people, if it’s any consolation, your counterparts at the Borg are just as bummed out as you are. FWIW I love the term “suck cake” but I might have used a different word instead of suck. Peace out.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Monkey Boy’s three-legged race

The Borg-Yahoo merger won’t work. Here’s why. It’s like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they’ll run faster.

Here’s the weird thing: I first heard that line about the 100-yard dash from Ballmer himself, maybe a decade ago.

See, the biggest mistake people make about Monkey Boy is thinking he’s dumb. Trust me, he’s not dumb. I’ve known him for years and he’s really, really smart. Like scary smart, freako IQ, way high on standardized tests all his life. He remembers everyone he’s ever met. He remembers every detail of every meeting and loves to freak out little junior Borgsters by recalling everything that happened at some random one-off from months or even years before. Total photographic memory.

The problem is not that he lacks IQ. Sure he’s Rain Man when it comes to remembering things. The problem is he has no vision, and no imagination. He’s all left brain. Hence this Yahoo offer. All he can see is that Google keeps beating the snot out of Microsoft and after all these years his coders still can’t create a search engine that works as well as Google’s and no matter what Microsoft does they can’t catch up. He’s tired of banging his head against the wall, so finally he just says, To hell with it, let’s buy someone and see what happens. His board is just as tired and bereft of ideas so they say, Sure, whatever, go for it.

But here’s the really dark part of all this. He knows it won’t work. He has to know this. He’s not stupid. The cultures will never fit together. And the deal is too big. It’s not manageable. And it’s completely anathema to Microsoft. It’s totally out of character for them. It goes against everything the company has ever stood for. Ballmer knows this, and he’s doing it anyway. Because this is exactly what every old-guard CEO does when all else fails. I mean it’s right there in the official playbook that you get in business school. And ultimately, smart as he is, Ballmer is an old-school kind of guy. He’s not really a tech guy. He has a mindset that was formed in Detroit, where he grew up. He’s a Big Three automaker kind of guy. And this is a Big Three move. It’s Ford buying Jaguar and Land Rover and Volvo because they can’t think of anything else to do.

So if the deal happens — and I’m not convinced it will — Ballmer will have bought himself maybe two years before it becomes clear to the entire world that it has failed. By then maybe Ballmer will be gone and someone else will have to mop up the mess. Or maybe Ballmer will still be around, in which case maybe he’ll do another deal and buy himself two more years or whatever. He’ll figure that out when he gets there. All he knows is that right now he’s got to do something. His stock has been underperforming the market for years. His shareholders are pissed. His board is grumbling.

But what, exactly, is the big vision here? I guess they’ll talk about how phase one was the PC revolution and now we’re entering phase two which is Internet computing and the cloud and they’ll say that by joining together they’ll become this giant powerful megacloud provider and the battle for utility computing is going to be all about scale. Oh, and synergy. Yeah. They’ll talk a lot about synergy. You know, like when you hook together a bunch of data centers that run on completely different technology stacks.

Scariest to me is that in all the articles I’ve seen the one thing Ballmer keeps bringing up is how he’ll be able to save $1 billion a year in costs. Are you kidding me? Is this Microsoft or Dunder Mifflin? I mean, I don’t doubt he could save a billion a year. But it says a lot about the kind of company Microsoft has become that this is what they’re thinking about.

According to our spies in Redmond the general consensus among the Borg rank-and-file is sheer and total dread. At best they see this as a giant pain in the ass, an enormous drain on resources, an unnecessary and pointless distraction with lots of nights and weekends spent slogging away on random useless bullshit and dealing will all sorts of annoying non-Microsoft people who don’t understand how Microsoft does things but can’t be blown off or pushed around like the “partners” the Borg is accustomed to dealing with.

Imagine a circus act in which two enormous, clumsy, awkward elephants that don’t really like each other are supposed to mate while riding on skateboards. Now imagine that it is your job, you lucky bastard, to be one of the little circus clowns standing alongside trying to make this extremely unnatural and unholy act take place. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people will have their lives completely ruined and flipped upside down for the next two years because of this deal. They’ll see even less of their kids. And those ski weekends? Forget about it. Ain’t gonna happen. Meanwhile Google will keep pulling away.

That’s the good scenario. In the worst-case scenario the merger turns into a never-ending world of shit à la AOL and Time-Warner, and Microsoft ends up gutted and gasping and then they waste another few years debating whether they should break the two companies apart and if so how do they do that and then maybe some prick like Carl Icahn or Kirk Kerkorian jumps in and adds to the misery.

Yeah. It’s that good. That giant buzzing sound you hear is the whirring of photocopiers in Redmond revving up and spitting out resumes. If this deal goes through people will be crawling over each other to get out of that place. You wonder why old-timers like Jeff Raikes and Charles Fitzgerald are bailing? Now we know. These guys are good soldiers who stuck it out through the DOJ nightmare and fought the good fight. But they’re done. They’re not hanging around for this mess.

Which brings me back to the three-legged racers in the 100-yard dash. Back when Microsoft was riding high I was talking to Ballmer at some conference — I have no idea where or when, but I’m sure he remembers exactly which conference this was and what day of the week it was and the number of the hotel room he stayed in — and on that day somebody had just announced some huge anti-Borg merger, and all the idiots in the press were saying this was going to kill Microsoft, and Ballmer was just laughing. Laughing. Laughing his ass off.

Ballmer said he loved when his rivals merged, because whenever the also-rans in any market start teaming up they might as well be waving a white flag. Because it’s over. You’ve beaten them. You’ve driven them to despair. They haven’t been able to beat you on their own; there’s no way they’ll do it together. Then he told me that line about the hundred-yard dash.

I’ll never forget it. But I guess he has.

Get on your feet!

As you know I hate Fake Steve Ballmer but I believe he is the auteur who produced this short film using pix created by readers here FSJ and I must say, it’s incredibly compelling. Reminds me of early Orson Welles.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Well once again the greatest readers on the Interwebs have stepped up, and we’ve got an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the Ballmer-Yang Photoshop contest. Just look at these lovely samples, each one suitable for framing. Picasso would be proud. Or jealous. Much love to all.

From Trev:

From SnowGypsy:

From Michael:

From Matt:

From Daniel T:

From Jason, our Art Director:

From James:

This one came in via PhotoCrank but I had to share because I so admire the way this person thought different about the situation:

Squirrel Boy swears he’s not scared. We have evidence to the contrary.

Here’s a shot of Eric getting into his car this morning so he can go home and work on the answers he’s going to give to analysts this afternoon. The calls from Wall Street are pouring in, and Google’s crack PR squad (cough, cough) is working overtime to hold them off. I know what you’re wondering and yes, we do have one of our operatives planted in their flack team, and word is they are freaking the fuck out. Stock is down to $513 from $564 yesterday. They’re shedding market cap faster than Britney Spears is shedding her grip on reality. It’s not just the Yahoo deal and the Facebook deal. You may have noticed that the Borg also recently lined up a n exclusive deal with the Wall Street Journal to handle their online ads.

Oh well. Frankly, Eric and I haven’t been too cool since they launched their stupid Android thing. On the other hand we are supposed to be brothers in arm against the Borg. And Eric says that this whole thing should scare me too, and I suspect he’s correct, though I’m still waiting for somehow to explain why that is.

Bam! Borg makes Yahoo its bitch.

In case you’re still waking up and getting coffee, the Borg just launched an assault on Yahoo, offering $45 billion. Now we know why Terry Semel left yesterday I guess. He’s the guy who rebuffed the Borg a year ago. Question is whether he quit in disgust or if the Borg made his departure a condition of the deal. Anyway, this is classic Borg. They wait. And wait. And wait. They press on you. They look for weakness. They keep pushing and pushing. They step on your oxygen tube, just a little, so slightly that nobody can see it but just enough to make it a little harder for you to breathe. They watch you grow weaker and weaker. They let Jerry Yang do his stupid 100-day review. Then they pounce. Now they’ve rounded up Facebook and they’ll soon have Yahoo, as long as government regulators don’t block the deal, which they probably won’t given the current administration. Oh, and gee whiz — guess who just missed their earnings number and has lost about $40 billion in market value in the last few months? Hmmm. Seen this movie before?

Beastmaster, I hate you. But I tip my cap to you too. Deep down, we are more alike than we are different.

Much love to anyone who can Photoshop the heads of Jerry Yang and Steve Ballmer onto the photo above.