Thursday, July 30, 2009

Microsoft-Yahoo! Partnership Needs a Culture Shift to Take on Google

As the escalating Microsoft-Google faceoff continues, Microsoft and Yahoo! have finally hooked up, but nobody seems too impressed with their search partnership.

Combining resources, they’ll still have only 30-35 percent of the market, compared to Google’s 65. Then there’s the looming antitrust scrutiny.

But we’re wondering about a separate issue: culture. Can Microsoft and Yahoo! mix successfully—and can they do it in a way that keeps pace with the open-source-innovation model parlayed by Google into Internet domination?

It takes a strong commitment to ingenuity to support a policy like Google’s “20 percent time,” whereby employees spend a day per week taking on projects outside their job description.

Microsoft and, to a lesser extent, Yahoo! are more entrenched, institutional organizations. They’ve evolved, sure, but they aren’t in a constant state of advancement the way Google is and has always been.

To be fair, Microsoft has fired some fairly strong volleys in this match, including the Bing rollout. Bill Gates’ behemoth baby isn’t accustomed to second place, so don’t count them out just yet. But the new MSFT-YHOO partners have big hurdles to clear as they try to cultivate a combined culture of creativity that’s a worthy rival of Google.

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