Filed Under (Geekstuff, Stuff, Technology) by Sean on June-14-2009

As many of you may already know, I’m a beneficiary of Ford’s recent aggressive social media public relations efforts. I was initially contacted by a social media consultancy out of Canada, retained by Ford, through my blog early last month. My first reaction was one of disbelief, thinking this had to be some sort of grand social engineering phishing experiment. With mild trepidation, I responded with an indication if interest. My choices were the Ford Escape and the Lincoln MKS. Being a huge fan of SUVs, I opted for the 2009 Lincoln MKS (plus, I get to experience my brother’s Escape Hybrid every time I visit Florida). I was supposed to get the 2010 version of the MKS, which is all-wheel drive and sports a twin-turbocharged 355 horsepower, 350 lb-ft torque V6, but a shortage of media fleet cars made this impossible. My 2009 version sports a 273 horsepower, normally-aspirated V6 instead. In any case, I’ve been promised by Ford that they will get me a 2010 to drive as soon as one is available. They’ve also promised to get me the new 2011 Ford Fiesta to drive as well!

The Lincoln MKS

Many of you who haven’t known me that long may not know I’ve always been a huge car enthusiast (though it has waned a bit over the years and my current Ford Taurus would certainly give you no indication). I started as a young teenager by going out on a Saturday with my father and test driving just about everything we could get our hands on – sports sedans, luxury autos, exotics, the works. As a card carrying member of the SCCA, I used to participate in various auto sporting events as well. Cars I’ve owned over the years have run the gamut: a VW, a BMW, 2 Mercedes, 5 Hondas, a Porsche, and a Ford.

Herein I will outline some initial impressions of the Lincoln MKS after having it for a few days. Over that time, I’ve managed to spend hours navigating big city traffic, taking a road trip and running high speed laps around the Nuremberg town. I’ve also satiated my inner geek (ok, maybe outer geek) by diving into the Microsoft Sync platform equipped in this car. This post will discuss my initial impressions of Sync; future posts will go into driving impressions and other aspects of the MKS.

Before I do that, however, I will sum up my reactions to the car as pros and cons:

Pros:

  • snappy performance for the size/class of car
  • good balance of ride firmness; corners and tracks well but doesn’t rattle your spine when driving over potholes and railroad tracks
  • good transmission; really responsive at down-shifting quickly. Manual mode available as well. Auto mode good at down-shifting before corners and engine braking when slowing down – something I’ve never seen in an American car. It seems engineers are doing their homework in studying German sports sedans!
  • decent ergonomics; comfortable and usable interior; sporty seats are suitable for long cross-country trips
  • seamless bluetooth integration with your phone and media device (could be the same device or two separate devices)
  • GPS NAV with real-time traffic, weather and other helpful travel information (e.g., gas prices)
  • QUIET. This car is almost devoid of wind noise even at 90+ mph
  • Air. Conditioned. Seats. It’s like lying down on a huge bag of ice. Gone are the sweaty backs Houston summers made famous.
  • SYNC system receives software upgrades and updates through an in-car USB interface where you can download the update on your computer to a USB drive (or your smart phone’s storage) and initiating the upgrade while connected to the car

Cons:

  • though the car sports very nice interior trim, the excessive amount of “shiny chromeplastic” is a little off-putting. The simulated brushed metal helps to counter that, however.
  • center console cup holders can’t accommodate two grande coffees (seems really bizarre the Germans have this figured out while the guys that invented the cup holders don’t!). See picture below.
  • beltline and cowl are really high; you can’t even comfortably rest your arm on the windowsill it’s so high. Obviously this is styling driven and at least there is a rear camera to assist you while you’re backing up since you can’t see shit out the rear window
  • I can’t use certain features of the NAV while driving (yes I know it’s an insurance thing or whatever, but it’s completely silly and promotes even worse behavior for reasons I’ll give below)
  • NAV system doesn’t have proper ICAO or FAA airport codes to use as destination or waypoint; I tried to use KGLS as the destination but it only knew “Scholes Galveston Airport” or selecting Airport point of interest

Of course, I love gadgets and toys. Consequently, I’m always interested in the latest state of automotive technology. Growing up, I benefited from my father being a huge gadget and car freak as well. I’m pretty sure he got the first car on Earth with built in NAV. I have certainly seen how not to implement car gadgetry. In-car technology has developed much of the way consumer electronics has: no standards, no interoperability, black-box proprietary systems and the like. Computer and technology companies have done most of the heavy lifting in changing the status quo in the consumer electronics industry, e.g., Apple. Now they’re attempting the same in the automotive space. I think that Sync is as close as I’ve seen to how it should be done (on another note, technologies based on other platforms such as Google’s Android could be coming to a car near you soon).

The car was delivered to my office by Becky, a super friendly Communications and Media Fleet Manager from Ford. She handed me the keys and said, “Enjoy! We look forward to reading what you have to say!” The first thing I did after parking it in my office parking garage downtown was pair up my G1 via bluetooth. I figured if I could make hands free phone calls and listen to my media library through the car’s audio system within a couple of minutes without opening a manual, that would be a good sign of things to come. That’s just what happened. I chose Phone from the console, selected the Add Devices button from the bright color touch screen, and a woman with what seemed like a slightly British accent instructed me to enter the PIN displayed on the screen when prompted by my phone when pairing with SYNC. Voila! The screen displayed a message asking me if I wanted my phonebook and call history to be loaded. I selected Yes. Not content to stop there, I then chose the Media button on the console. Within about 3 seconds the audio system started playing the current playlist on my G1. Sweet. While delighting in all this, the phone rang. On the color touch screen, the Caller ID and phone book entry of the caller is displayed along with a choice to answer or deny the call. The weird thing about this was it was my phone’s ring tone playing in stereo on top of the slightly-reduced-in-volume music through the stereo. It was a business call, so I answered and carried on the discussion for a few minutes before deciding I needed to continue this conversation on the way to my desk. I turned the key off, opened the door, and the call seamlessly transferred to my handset without the slightest hiccup. Too cool. In a similar vein, if I’m rocking out to some streaming music through my phone through bluetooth and turn off the car, remove the key and open the door, the phone automatically pauses the media stream. When you get back in the car and start it, the music automatically resumes once the bluetooth connection is reestablished. Similarly, if you’re talking on your handset and get in and start the car, the phone conversation seamlessly transitions to hands-free mid sentence without hesitation. You have the option to choose privacy mode where the phone call continues on your handset. Someone really paid attention to usability when designing this system.

The GPS-based NAV is one of the best I’ve seen. Adding to its touch-screen ease of use is the fact that it gets real time traffic information via Sirius satellite, even if you don’t pay for a Sirius subscription (Ford apparently hadn’t paid for it in this car, which I thought was somewhat puzzling). The first thing you do is choose a destination by pushing the DEST button on the dashboard and selecting the destination through a variety of methods (nearest points of interest, street address, yellow page categories, phone book) or selecting the voice command button on the steering wheel and using voice commands to tell the system where you would like to go (and you don’t even need to train the system for your voice!). You then choose the shortest or fastest route and you’re on your way. The system provides you with turn-by-turn directions along with graphical depictions of each turn on the display. For upcoming turns, the screen is split with a map on the left and the detailed turn depicted on the right (see the photos below for an example). Additionally, it counts down the distance to the next turn or waypoint and displays a progress timer bar to help you determine your arrival to the next instruction. The bottom of the display shows your current location and speed limit, if available. If an accident or other incident happens along your route, a notice is displayed on the screen where you can review details  of it and choose an option to avoid at which point it accordingly reroutes you. One of the exercises I like to do is test out how resilient a NAV system is when you inadvertently (or purposely) miss a turn. Some of them incessantly complain and ask you to make a U-turn to get back on track. The system in the Lincoln, however, doesn’t miss a beat. Virtually the instant after you miss a turn instruction, it recalculates the route such that you can continue your general direction of travel. It’s so seamless that if you blinked you may have missed that anything happened at all. Information available at your fingertips also includes the weather (forecast, satellite images) and gasoline prices at nearby gas stations (see photos below).

There were a few hiccups in the system. Every now and again my phone would become “un-paired” or stop playing audio. Sometimes the device got out of sync where I would be listening to audio on my phone through  wired ear buds, and upon starting the car the phone would pair and stop the stream; I would have to start it up again manually (apparently the command to autoplay/autostop is a change of state and not discreet play/stop commands). It is important to note that you must have an A2DP capable media device in order to stream bluetooth audio through the audio system. If your device isn’t capable, you won’t be able to pair it at all as an audio device (this doesn’t impact the phone pairing, however). I learned this the hard way after I replaced my G1 under warranty that had an older version of the OS before they added AD2P extensions. There is a mini-phono jack if you want to connect an older iPod or mp3 player. My main complaint is that you cannot browse the phonebook while the car is moving over 15 mph or so, which seems silly since that requires you to pick up your phone an lookdown and scroll through its phonebook instead (yes I know you shouldn’t do either). At least you can use voice commands to make calls.

Microsoft SYNC definitely adds huge value to the MKS. Ford and Microsoft mention in some of their public relations material that SYNC is increasingly becoming a major contributing factor in the car purchasing decision process. I don’t quite know how exclusive the arrangement is between Microsoft and Ford, but I could see how SYNC would tip your decision towards a Ford or Lincoln when comparing makes of cars. It will be exciting to see what other manufacturers do in adopting future competing systems as well as what those competing systems will look like. The connected automobile is here and here to stay. After my experience with this car, I can see where having the capabilities SYNC provides makes your life easier and would be a driver in choosing a particular car over another. In today’s hyper-connected world where your information is living in the cloud and accessible through your smart phone, this Lincoln is not only a pleasure to drive but can help keep your connected world, dare I say it, in sync.

That’s it for the first installment! Look for my driving impressions coming soon. Check out some of the pictures below.

Lincoln MKS

NAV System

Travel Information

Cup Holders

 



Filed Under (Technology) by Sean on March-13-2008

I would like to think the management team at Yahoo read my previous post where I shat on them for ceasing any real innovation and decided to do something about it. If you haven’t heard, Yahoo has decided to embrace the semantic web. I think this is great news. The Semantic Web essentially extends the web with defined, semantic information using microformats and RDF such that computers can understand it. This promises to dramatically impact the web in many profound ways. More precise, intelligent searches should be possible, as well as more contextual ways to present search results. In a nutshell, this is exciting for Yahoo’s future. We will have to stay tuned and see if this has any impact on Microsoft’s intent to acquire Yahoo and, more importantly, if Microsoft would continue these efforts should the acquisition be consummated. This development is also exciting for the web in general. Stay tuned!



Filed Under (Geekstuff, Rants, Technology) by Sean on February-28-2008

This is a very minor update to my series of rants about Microsoft’s crappy software.

So as mentioned in the last rant, I was backing up all the data on my Dell laptop before I wipe it clean and install Ubuntu. I left the office yesterday after starting the backup process. I came in today expecting it to be complete. Nope! Guess what? Yep, Microsoft decided it was a better idea to reboot my machine after some very important updates instead of complete my backup. It only backed up 1.7 GB, so now I’ve got to start again . . . . sheesh . . .



Filed Under (Geekstuff, Rants, Technology) by Sean on February-27-2008

If I had a dime for every time . . . . I find myself muttering that often while sitting there waiting for Windows to finish some inane task, whether it’s giving the hard drive a good workout (aka thrashing), wanting to reboot for no good reason, or upon start up where 67 applications combat each other for the computer’s attention thinking they are more important than me, the user. Microsoft Windows is basically a playground for poorly written software that pays no attention to what the user actually wants to accomplish. Literally, while writing this post, my old Windows laptop I’m copying files from before I wipe the drive clean and install Linux has prompted me with no fewer than 4 dialogs insisting I reboot (and I’m not referring to the incessant “Windows must reboot” dialog after a Windows update either).

Some of my favorite work interruptions: “New Wireless Networks found!” [Click the X to close] Ten seconds later “No, really!! New Wireless Networks found! Aren’t you curious?” [click to close again] “No Wireless Connection found.” Christ! Go the fuck away will you?? Even more fun: after manually shutting off the wifi hardware on your laptop, presuming that, uh, you really want it, uh, off, “No Wireless Networks found.” No shit?!? “There’s a new Java Upate!” “Windows required an update to fix one of a gillion vulnerabilities in its shitty software and decided the hell with you and what you were working on and rebooted anyway.” “Warning! Are you sure you want to quit this crappy software? It provides an essential crappy service and should you decide you wanted to use it, it wouldn’t be hogging all your memory and thrashing your hard drive!” Or my favorite quick-launch executables that run at startup so the programs will launch faster: “Hey if you want Word to startup in less time than it takes to run to Starbucks and get coffee, we recommend you run this quick launch utility, also useful in taking up an inordinate amount of memory. This will only add about 23 minutes to your computer’s start up time.” Or “Macafee SuperVirus has decided you were working on something important so it decided to perform some updates and thrash your hard drive so it could squash competing viruses.” I’ve always liked this one with trying to kill wayward processes: “Haha got you! We displayed this task manager process list to make you think you had control over your machine, but the joke is on you. We’ve decided you’re incapable of making decisions and have determined that the process taking up all your memory, hogging your CPU to the point you could scramble eggs on it, and trashing your hard drive within an inch of its life is in fact a process you cannot Kill at this time. Go wash your car or something and check back later.” I love it when you scan the local network to find a Windows share and Windows basically locks up while searching the network for computers; my Ubuntu box does a faster and more thorough job of finding Windows shares than Windows does which is amusing to say the least. Or my very, very favorite: since I usually am on the go, I close my laptop up putting Windows in standby (which works only part of the time – the other part it just stays on and runs down the battery until it’s dead). It’s safe to say when you turn your computer on or bring it out of standby you may actually want to do something really quick, like look up something on the Internet, shoot off a quick email or read a document. Well you can forget that! When I open up the computer and pray to the Steve Ballmer lunatic gods it will come on at all, it’s pretty much a free for all between various programs deciding that there are much more important things to do that don’t involve me at all (again, usually involving intense hard drive, memory and CPU exercise).

This is the first part of many, delving into the innumerable serious deficiencies regarding Microsoft software at a high level. I promise it won’t only be ranting; I will also discuss specific solutions to each of my rants should Mr. Ballmer and his team read my insights. I’ll touch on ideas that would eliminate the above gripes and discuss further annoyances.

Shit, another dialog box. No I do not want to fucking reboot now and will let you know when I do, so please stop asking!



Filed Under (Business, Technology) by Sean on February-22-2008

I would like to think Steve Ballmer read my damning indictment of him and his company and my recommendations when deciding to share more of the company’s secrets. The New York Times story quotes Ballmer as saying the company was adapting to “the opportunities and risks of a more connected, more services-oriented world.”

According to the story, by Steve Lohr in today’s Technology section:

Microsoft said on Thursday that it would open up and share many more of its technical secrets with the rest of the software industry and competitors. Microsoft executives, in a conference call, characterized the announcement as a “strategic shift” in the company’s business practices and its handling of technical information . . .

The broader goal, they said, is to bring Microsoft’s flagship personal computer products — the Windows operating system and Office productivity programs — further into the Internet era of computing. Increasingly, people want a seamless flow of documents, data and programming code among desktop PCs and the Internet, especially as they make the shift from using software on a PC to using services on the Web.

The story also quotes Microsoft’s general counsel as saying, “qualitatively and quantitatively different from anything we’ve done in the past.”

I think this is great news, however I am not 100% sure of its sincerity. Did Microsoft finally wake up and realize the world around them or is this some surreptitious strategy to gain regulator approval to pursue Yahoo and continue with business as usual?

I suppose I’m the eternal optimist and hope they really are changing their tune and overall company strategy to fit the realities of the current marketplace. Microsoft has plenty to teach the industry; they certainly have much to learn from it.

We will have to stay tuned and see. Microsoft has much to do to de-vilify itself and step down as the industry bully and consider itself an important part of the technology ecosystem. It needs to become a shepherd of open standards and interoperability. A rising tide of industry-wide innovation will lift all boats and broaden technology’s reach, which will help technology achieve its promise.



Filed Under (Business, Rants, Technology) by Sean on February-21-2008

Seriously, get a life, SCO and SNCP. In case you haven’t heard, SCO filed chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year as a result of its failed lawsuits against Linux vendors and customers. Now it has courted a new suitor, Stephen Norris Capital Partners, to the tune of $100 million to continue it’s nonsensical war against open source and Linux.

At least companies that put out crappy software and/or fall seriously short in the ethics department still actually try to innovate and compete (e.g., Microsoft – though conspiracy theories abound that say they’re behind all this nonsense). This cause, however, is only about greed, opportunism, desperation, and psychopathy, pure and simple. Perhaps these guys ought to try to better life on the planet with their “largesse.” Perhaps someone could actually innovate with that money. You know, find a cure for cancer, or develop social programs to eliminate poverty. I certainly hope the bankruptcy court sees this for the extortionist fraud it is and severs it off at the head.

Even if their case has some merit (which it certainly doesn’t appear to given what’s transpired and SCO’s own tactics of declaring bankruptcy weeks before going to trial), from a moral perspective what they’re doing is simply wrong. With all that’s at stake, with users and governments around the world benefiting from the spread of free software, this is analogous to a rogue enterprise waging a trillion dollar intellectual property battle to blot out the use of antibiotics. It doesn’t make economic sense, legal sense, or business sense, and smacks of moral turpitude.



Filed Under (Business, Technology) by Sean on February-15-2008

This is sort of a follow up to my article on Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo. I encourage you to read (or re-read) that article; the premise is that Google continues to innovate and has fully embraced the open source model of application development and become active in promoting and contributing to the open source community. This is what I believe Microsoft should do if it doesn’t want to go the way of the IBM Selectric. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s proprietary software dogma has reached pathological proportions and it will take a major changing of the guard (that means you, Ballmer) to knock any sense into the executive suite. If Microsoft doesn’t start getting with the open source program (in principle and action), I predict it will be a vestigial semblance of itself in twenty years time. This blog entry demonstrates what Google is doing and why they will continue to rule as long as the innovation continues.



Filed Under (Business, Internet) by Sean on February-9-2008

How about that! It seems Yahoo agrees with my valuation of the situation and intends to reject Microsoft’s bid.



Filed Under (Business, Internet) by Sean on February-4-2008

I was certainly as surprised as anyone to see Microsoft’s $46 Billion bid for Yahoo. In my opinion this prospective acquisition ranks somewhere between the most ill-conceived idea ever to a decidedly mediocre, ho-hum idea.

It seems at first pass this is a great deal to short term Yahoo shareholders who are looking for an exit. Yahoo’s stock and innovation alike have languished for years. I believe Yahoo’s woes result from an identity crisis. Are they a media company? A technology company? An Internet search engine? A software company? A software as a service (SAAS) company? Who the hell is Yahoo? As a result Yahoo has, in a way, suffered double jeopardy from this lack of identity. They have aligned their market capitalization to that of traditional media companies, while completely stalling innovation as a technology company.

I think Microsoft and Yahoo have it completely wrong — “it” being strategy. Google has it right, pure and simple. The race is a race of innovation. Google’s innovation has continued to accelerate since its founding. Microsoft continues to dump its decade old software into a blender and spit out boring variations on the same theme. It uses its monopolistic hegemony, ties with PC manufacturers and extortion over its existing install base to keep market share. Google has innovated new and exciting ideas in software to get things done, which has resulted in its meteoric rise. Yahoo once had this innovation bug too, until it decided it wanted to become a media outlet sometime around 2001; it has paid the price ever since.

I believe I can speak with some authority on these three companies since I’ve been a paying enterprise customer of each (in the tens of thousands of dollars and beyond); presumably I’ve seen the best they have to offer and have counted on them to provide mission critical services. In the last 6 months, I have entirely moved away from both Yahoo and Microsoft as a paying customer and user — a timely and fortuitous move in my opinion. I have moved away from both for what can be summed up thusly: please stop telling me how I’m supposed to do things. It seems whenever I try to accomplish a task, their software dictates how I’m supposed to do it rather than the other way around. I think it’s ironic that, as a paying customer of Microsoft and Yahoo, I decided virtually simultaneously to ditch both mere weeks before this development. I don’t think I’m the only one doing so, either. Does Microsoft think that by combining with Yahoo they can stall or reverse the flight? I think not.

So what do I use these days to get things done? I switched to Open Office (which also forms the back-end of Google Docs) to do all of my basic document creation and Ubuntu Linux for my desktop computer’s operating system. I use a mashup of Google Calendar, Contacts, Evolution, my Treo and some web services middleware to keep it all in sync for my PIM. I have been using Linux as a server platform and built an entire company on it since its beginnings in the early 1990s. Back then, when I wanted to implement a feature in software that wasn’t available (which was often it seemed), I would simply dive into the source code, add the features I needed and recompile with my trusty C compiler. Try doing that with Microsoft software! In some cases, where I still have to use Internet Explorer to visit websites designed by Neanderthals that still require IE instead of working with standards compliant browsers like Firefox (I find it amusing that Microsoft’s own web site’s simple “About Us” page has roughly 195 validation errors), I use Wine, which works amazingly well. I also use numerous other open source, free applications from repositores containing thousands of increasingly mature applications. I will devote an entire post to typical applications used for various tasks as well as open source alternatives/equivalents to brand name software (hint: want to install a Photoshop-like graphics application NOW? type “sudo apt-get install gimp” or “yum install gimp” and presto! It’s installed and ready to use within seconds. That was easy!) My apologies, however, as I digress. I do not intend to foment the proprietary vs. open source debate here; that will be another post entirely.

Let’s discuss Yahoo’s languishing innovation, for example. I’ve used their Mail Plus web application for email for many years. One of the things we all deal with is spam. No matter how good spam filtering software is, even the most sophisticated, trained Bayesian filters trap false positives. Therefore it is important to cull through your spam folder to mark these emails as ham (i.e., not spam) to train your spam filter to not trap them in the future. The easiest way I know to do this is perform simple searches of your spam folder and look for legitimate senders and the like. My spam folder collects over 5,000 messages each month. What is my problem? Yahoo doesn’t let you search your spam folder. With the number of users commenting on this oversight in Yahoo forums, you would think Yahoo would listen and correct this problem post haste. In fact, I emailed Yahoo customer support about this issue more than 4 years ago. They still haven’t done anything about it. Presumably, from a software perspective, the reasoning for this is that spam outnumbers legitimate email 6 to 1 and indexing this would add an unnecessary burden on Yahoo’s compute infrastructure. But they are (were) a search company, right? They give you a work-around but it is virtually impossible to implement with anything more than a handful of messages. Google let’s you search your spam mail just like normal email, as you would expect. Google, quite frankly, just “gets it.” Yahoo and Microsoft don’t.

I could bore you with numerous other examples exemplifying huge holes in Yahoo’s business, especially when it comes to their horribly contrived customer support system (even after a perfectly composed, detailed email describing an obvious bug including all relevant details fit for a quality assurance team, you get a ridiculous response prompting you to perform insipid tasks such as checking to see if your computer is plugged in and the like), but I’ll get back to the thesis of this article.

Microsoft is another lost company. I have a great deal of respect for Bill Gates, but I think Steve Ballmer seriously needs to cut down on LSD or whatever deleterious hallucinogens he may be using. Their problems are compounded by pathology within MS that their shit doesn’t stink. In my opinion MS would benefit greatly by adopting open source and creating value on top of it in areas where they excel such as user interface design and features (though that’s arguable with the latest version of Office as an example). Vista was an absolute waste of millions of development man-hours that could have been better used bettering the best-OS-MS-has-ever-made Windows 2003 line up (XP and 2003 Server). I mean, seriously! One of the big deals about Windows NT was its goal to be fully POSIX compliant. Seems they completely forgot what they were trying to do. Even now, 15 years after NT’s release, Microsoft operating systems (still based on the NT kernel architecture) still lack probably the single most powerful aspect of POSIX and *nix systems – a powerful, scriptable, robust command line shell – a must for any serious server administrator’s tool chest.

All in all, the reasons a Yahoo acquisition is a bad deal are many. For Yahoo, it would mean the demise of a company culture that could once again foster great innovation. It would mean some promising software products, including recent acquisitions, could hit the chopping block (Zimbra, Flickr). It would be bad for Yahoo customers who went to Yahoo to get away from Microsoft in the first place. It would mean melding two distinctly different infrastructures (Yahoo is primarily based on open source software fundamentals and linux based platforms). It is bad for Microsoft for the same reasons (i.e., once the above things are priced into Yahoo stock after an acquisition, much of the value would be lost). From a strictly economic and shareholder return perspective, Microsoft would do better to buy back its own stock than acquire Yahoo.

Both companies are suffering from bad strategy. Microsoft is the blood-thirsty bully, reacting to competitive threats with attack posturing and hegemony rather than quietly winning the war through innovation, ala Google. However Microsoft does have a very talented workforce and very smart people which it could leverage if it weren’t for the raving lunatics in the executive suite and the prevailing proprietary technology dogma that should be laid to rest. Microsoft should launch into open source, deploy hostable, SAAS versions all its leading software, port its software to run on Linux and even create its own Linux distribution. Microsoft made a huge bet that the likes of John Gage were wrong with his infamous phrase, “The Network is the Computer.” Microsoft bet wrong. The war is on applications and functionality and efficacy of those applications to get things done. Not operating systems. Increasingly the Internet is the deployment medium for these applications. I suppose perhaps Microsoft has figured this out which is what the Yahoo bid is all about. I still believe, however, that just like Microsoft’s huge miscalculation about the importance of the Internet back in the 90′s, they are still running in circles based on flawed assumptions and fundamentals.

Similarly, Yahoo has the people, the smarts, the culture, market share and the infrastructure to really compete against Google. Its problem is simply lack of a coherent vision of what it is, what it is trying to do and why (and what it wants to be when it grows up). It does have a new mission statement, which is a good thing. Now they need to really put words into action. Microsoft is only buying Yahoo because of its brand and its existing audience, not because of its capability to innovate. I don’t believe mergers just to acquire customers ever work, especially when a large percentage of the customers you’re acquiring got there to begin with by avoiding you. I’m also speaking from personal experience; my Internet company in the 90′s was acquired by a company in an effort to acquire customers and not to continue our proven strategy of success (that will be another whole blog post). The problem was that their going-forward strategy was flawed and as a result the whole house of cards fell down.

In summary, I think this proposed deal is a bad deal on just about every front. Many news outlets and bloggers are calling the bid hostile but that remains to be seen. I only see it as unsolicited, but not yet hostile. Yahoo does have poison pill protection in the event they also see the takeover as hostile. It will be interesting to watch from the sidelines and see how things develop.