Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Corporate Courtship: Yahoo by Microsoft

The bid by Microsoft for Yahoo last January will probably take a year or two to
get hashed out. This sort of move by corporate giants seemingly does not affect our day-to-day lives. Generally, we only start to care when the server does not respond when we click on the icon to access our yahoo services (mail, news, search engine., among other things.) Click the refresh, and the cold apology bleeps on the window, something about the server is temporarily down, and will be up and running in the unforeseen future of a few hours. No commitments, but there is hope.

There are things we begin to take for granted, like the presence of a constant companion. Our social network has expanded beyond our physical boundaries because of the internet and the ever growing array of services. Let's narrow it down to the ones that allow us to publish about our professional and personal selves: Facebook, MySpace, Tweeter, Friends, Yahoo Instant Messenger and Google Chat, and our favorite blog sites.

If any of these services disappeared or changed drastically in a way that handicaps our ability to reach out into cyberspace to our "friends", then we're suddenly removed from our comfort zone. Hmmmf. It's a mild temporary glitch. We trust that it's a bug and will soon be fixed by the Elves of 'Oom. (please add the appropriate prefix that comes to your mind. I thought of Doom, but it's way too gloom, and if I used 'Shroom, then that might not be appropriate either.)

Where is all this leading to? There are several points, but the one I'll make is: it's easy to leave it to those perceived to be in power about the decision making, and let the tsunami roll in. But if people read between the lines of the messages then they can protect themselves, and be prepared.

Microsoft has put forward a $44.5 billion offer to take over Yahoo. (Go to this link to read the message from Jerry Yang to his 14,300 troops:

In it he describes that the employees deserve credit for the success of Yahoo.

Meanwhile, the company has already announced plans to layoff about 1,000 people by mid-February. This scenario is very familiar to me, because back in 2003, there was a "hostile" takeover bid by Oracle (at the time the 2nd or 3rd largest software company in the world) for Peoplesoft. It took sometime for the deal to complete, but through the throes and passion of whole ordeal, Oracle, as expected, reorganized the closet and laid off employees no longer needed.

The process is very organized, logical, clinical, and effective. (Perhaps, being in the industry for 17 years, I occasionally fall into this mode when having to get a job done without too much blood.) But it started with a series of interviews and forms which asked me questions about my "functions". Reading between the lines, I saw it was clearly a way to justify my existence in the company.

At about this period in my career, after 3 years at Peoplesoft, I was also looking for a break to recharge my batteries. One of the benefits of these takeover bids is the movement of the stocks. The bid is a shot in the arm for Yahoo, as it was for Peoplesoft. Yahoo's stock rose from $25.00 to $31.00 since the announcement two weeks ago. Anyway, I had some stock options tucked away, and I had decided to exercise them and hang on to the cash to fund my hiatus.

By the end of December 2004, the deal was closed. Oracle had already started to refurnish the reception lobby of our office, and hung its signature name O R A C L E on the wall. There were other visible changes, but the biggest one yet to come was the absence of former colleagues from the office. Mid-January the employees expected a letter in the mail that would announce their continuance or severance of ties to Oracle. I was already hoping for the former, because I had started to make my travel plans to see South America, backpacking.

I opened the letter, and there it was, 'We regret…' da da da da and I didn't need to read further. There was knot in my stomach and a tightening of my shoulders. It was not a good feeling to be laid off, though it is what I wanted. It just hurt to be unwanted and not useful anymore. But this was the wrong perspective to take. It's business and not personal. Business is more profitable when outsourced to countries like India where labor was cheaper for an educated workforce. India's IT resource has grown and developed to be very competitive globally. Driving through San Jose, California is quite like a busy city in India.

Meanwhile, other insights about the Microsoft – Yahoo deal is, despite Yahoo's rejection of the unsolicited offer saying "substantially undervalues" the company's worth, they have left the door open. People are getting ready to cash in. The deal will happen, and it's a matter of price and time.

Google perceives the deal as a "troubling" challenge, because it stands to have to compete with a new competitor with more financial backing. It has mildly accused Microsoft of its innate nature "to establish proprietary monopolies" which could unfairly limit the peoples' access to other competitor's e-mail and IM services. This is a worthy consideration in wanting this deal to fall through.

It wouldn't surprise me when the fight is brought to the courts to decide whether or not this deal is healthy and wise for the general public, because I've seen this before too, and it just raised the stakes higher. In any business timing is critical, so arm yourself with information and network, network, network.

-Analyn Revilla

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