Sunday, November 30, 2008

Will Microsoft and Yahoo work out a deal?

Sooner or later, Microsoft and Yahoo will come to some sort of agreement on their common interests, even though they also have divergent interests, but the idea of a full acquisition of Yahoo is essentially a non-starter. Sure, Microsoft has a content business, but trying to outright merge it with MSN would not be worth the effort or the upfront or long-term costs. Maybe some form of blending or cross-promotion would benefit both parties. What Microsoft really should do is to become the search provider for Yahoo. Ultimately, Microsoft does not need to buy any assets at all, but simply should become the search service provider for Yahoo. But, since Yahoo has such a large investment in search, Microsoft may need to buyout some major chunk of that investment in order to convince Yahoo to make a deal happen. I suspect that what really needs to happen is for Microsoft to provide some form of preferential treatment for Yahoo content search results. And, maybe, Microsoft would abandon some, but not all, of its own content services in favor of associating with Yahoo content services.

One big unknown is the degree to which Yahoo would get out of the ad brokering business and rely on Microsoft to sell ad space on Yahoo content. I am sure Microsoft wants that, but Yahoo may not be willing to do that, at least in any initial search-provider deal. Longer term, this does seem the way that Yahoo should go, to limit and leverage its own resources.

This whole deal might be a multi-step process, a confidence-building process, with each step getting bigger until the final deal can be completed.

In any case, it is still likely that Yahoo would remain a separate corporation from Microsoft, even as Microsoft becomes a very significant service provider to Yahoo.

Ultimately, Yahoo needs to dramatically shrink its level of investment, effectively outsourcing that to Microsoft, who will be in a better position to leverage investment, so that Yahoo can focus on the content areas where it does best. And maybe then Microsoft can outsource some of its own content to Yahoo to leverage their investment as well. In essence, Microsoft is a platform company, with search and advertising being key platforms.

I suspect that Microsoft and Yahoo will in fact ultimately do some sort of deal. Maybe it will simply take some additional economic weakness to convince Yahoo to give up some of their overly idealistic fantasies of doing everything on their own.

Disclosure: I do own Microsoft stock.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Barnegat Bay Sardines?

I grew up in Waretown, New Jersey which is on the shore (inland) side of Barnegat Bay, directly across from the Barnegat Lighthouse ("Old Barney.") Now I live in New York City, in midtown Manhattan. This morning I went out to get something to eat and stopped by the Duane Reade pharmacy store on the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. I picked up a few cans of 99-cent Arizona ice tea and walked towards the cash register line. As I was walking down one of the few food aisles, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there were stacks of sardine cans on a shelf, one of which was a dark blue box with the title "Barnegat Bay Sardines" and a red and white graphic representation of the Barnegat Lighthouse. What? I had never heard of any such thing, but there they were. I picked up a 79-cent box for my own amusement.

I was born in 1954 and never saw a sardine from Barnegat Bay. But, technically, they may have existed in the estuaries in the years before the shoreline was developed. As far as I know, they have not come back.

They are distributed by Zwanenberg Food Group (USA) of Cincinnati, Ohio. Actually, it is a Dutch company with brands such as Dutch Colony cooked ham.

The box says that they are a "PRODUCT OF THAILAND."

How do they taste? No idea. The can does not have a traditional "key" to roll back the lid and I do not have a can opener.

The box says "Lightly Smoked - in Soybean Oil."

Oh, and the box claims that "Barnegat Bay" is a registered trademark.

Hmmm... very interesting.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Turning the page: Michael Crichton

Wow, talking about the "old guard" and "turning the page", the death of Michael Crichton is quite a shock. I actually thought he was still a fairly young guy. Twelve years older than me, but now he is gone. I remember when The Andromeda Strain was new and exciting, when I was in high school. I guess we have moved on sinced then, but there is not a lot around us these days that feels as new and exciting as things did back then. I never though of Crichton as "old guard", but I never thought of the Clintons as "old guard" either. Now, as they say, we have "turned the page." Crichton's death make the "turn" that much more emphatic.

People talk about change accelerating, but to me it feels as if the pace of change is actually decelerating. Maybe it is the pace of promises for change that has decelerated since the great science fiction writers and social commentators of the 1950's through 1980's that has slowed down. ANd maybe it is the pace of catching up with all of those promises that appears to be accelerating.

After all, if change is accelerating, why would we be worried at all about energy and transportation at all? In truth, a lot of serious and important change has been ongoing and occurs at such a slow, but variable, rate that we flip flop from claiming that it is either not happening at all or that it is suddenly accelerating, even though the overall pace when measured over a multi-decade timeframe may be little changed.

I would simply say that the pace of change is uneven and leave it at that.

Back to Crichton, I suppose it is rather ironic for his career to start with The Andromeda Strain and then end with the U.S. settling the case of an anthrax biological attack. Which is stranger, fiction or fact?

I also enjoyed reading The Great Train Robbery and State of Fear.

I also love the irony of State of Fear, which ultimately is simply making the point that separating fact from fiction is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible in many cases, at least in real-time. Crichton was a truly brilliant guy, but somehow a lot of people actually do believe that they are so much smarter than him. Time will tell if their claims and beliefs truly justify their self-righteous arrogance.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Oops... I missed daylight saving time

I use my vintage 2001 Sony Clie PDA as an alarm clock, causing me to miss the Fall transition from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time. I needed to manually toggle the DST indicator on my PDA and simply had not seen any mention of DST in the past week since I was spending so much time focused on work, financial news, and political news. I did not even notice the transition until I booted my PC and noticed the correct time. I am still running Windows XP, but Service Pack 3 has all of the goodies to automatically transition for DST.

I was getting rather depressed by it being dark at 7:00 a.m. anyway. I would prefer to wake up with the sun, but I also prefer to get up reasonably early.

I suppose I need to start thinking of upgrading from this old PDA that I also carry around as a watch replacement. I am one of those few people who do not have a cell phone (simply because I do not want or need one). But my budget for electronic "gizmos" is $0 until I recover from the expense of moving to New York City back in May, as well as not having much work from the middle of August until the last week of October.

I am still having trouble having trouble adjusting to the fact that it is November already.

-- Jack Krupansky