CEOs Say The Darnedest Things

    March 12, 2009
    WebProNews Staff

A year later, a Microsoft and Yahoo assault on Google still can’t be ruled out. Steve Ballmer says he’s still interested, and even though Yahoo’s new chief won’t kiss and tell, her apparent lack of confidence in her company is telling enough.

And what does Google CEO Eric Schmidt have to say to potential MicroHoo, search, and Twitter competition?

Good luck, kids.

The CEOs, speaking at different venues this week, offered rather unusual insight into how they see the current state of the Web world and what happens next. Ballmer acknowledged he still would “like to figure out how to pool somehow Microsoft and Yahoo,” and hopes to have a “reasonable conversation” about it with the new management.

Interesting choice of words given the heated (perhaps unreasonable) rhetoric that pumped out Yahoo HQ last year, especially between Jerry Yang, Kevin Bostock, and Carl Icahn.

Yahoo’s new CEO, Carol Bartz was noticeably less defiant about the topic. At the end of January, Bartz maintained Yahoo was a “fantastic internet property” and rebuffed the idea that the company should be stripped down and sold for parts. This week, although she listed search alongside email and the Yahoo portal as cores of the company, she refused to comment publicly about Microsoft negotiations before trash-talking her own company.

In addition to creating a “wall of shame” for bad Yahoo products, she admitted she used Google Maps instead of Yahoo Maps, and didn’t believe Yahoo had what it took to invent the next Facebook.

Well how’s that for transparency? It’s also a chink in that armor of pride cofounder Yang had put up for most of last year.

Schmidt expressed doubt about a Yahoo-Microsoft match-up and didn’t hesitate to bring up Microsoft’s interference with Google’s own deal with Yahoo. Schmidt expressed concern about Microsoft’s ability to “restrict consumer choice” and wished them both luck, which sounds almost like a veiled expect-some-payback threat, much like the antitrust payback Google’s giving Microsoft in Europe this year.

As for Twitter, recently touted by the [Insert giant company]-killer crowd as the next big Google threat, Schmidt at the same Morgan Stanley conference relegated Twitter to a “poor man’s email system,” so he may not be shaking in his expensive boots just yet.

Not that Schmidt’s overconfident. He did say the battle for search supremacy wasn’t over, but it may be he thinks Google has bigger fish to fry than any one of those other companies. Though he feels Google is better prepared to handle the economic crisis than other companies, he admitted Google is not immune to a “pretty dire” economic situation that “does not appear to have a current bottom.” That will affect the online advertising market, and will affect Google.

And if it affects Google, it’ll surely affect Yahoo worse. Time is ticking Ms. Bartz, and Ballmer’s probably looking like a very attractive date all of a sudden.