What I learned about Microsoft is that it already has three and a half heads. It's now poised to add a fourth. Since I've been purging myself of MS over the past several weeks I don't have any idea where I put my notes that told me exactly what the acronyms are for the three of Microsoft's 10 billion dollar businesses. But the biggest point, which led to my leaving the Kiretsu was the realization that Microsoft is a technology galaxy of loosely federated product groups. This has specific advantages when it comes to providing a platform, but specific disadvantages when it comes to building product stacks, and product stacks are what sell in the enterprise software space. For my tastes, and for the tastes of every SAP, Oracle and IBM customer under the globe, Microsoft's product strategy doesn't have the requisite focus. I won't belabor the point.
What's shocking about this particular idea is that it is a startling admission that MSN is a failure. I can't imagine anything more or less than a huge, huge culture shock.
What's obvious is that this is an attempt to kill Google, or replicate parts of its business model. But Google's business model is actually besides the point. Advertising revenues through online are really means to a Google end which is to build a single computer for the world and world scalable applications for that computer. Microsoft is just adding functionality to a massive installed base that has never and will never talk to itself the way Google customers talk to themselves. Which is to say Microsoft enables software gadgetry with no overarching design. Adding Yahoo to the gumbo.. well it only makes discrete sense not holistic sense.
So Microsoft is going to grow another head. I think it makes that which is ugly even uglier, and that which is dangerous more dangerous still. It will show Microsoft's ability to fight in yet another domain and it will put another lovely bushel of mulch into the compost, but don't expect all the fermentation to yield anything smooth for another four years.