News coming out of Redmond, Washington today makes me wonder whether Microsoft executives actually read my MSN blog and heeded to what I wrote in September when it was featured on MSN Spaces. The news reported today that Microsoft and Yahoo! will team up to link their instant message programs, both called Messenger, globally. Also today, news reports speculated that Google and Comcast will both buy stakes in America Online (AOL). Earlier reports surmised that Microsoft would buy a stake in AOL, primarily to replace Google with Microsoft’s MSN as AOL’s primary search engine. That does not appear to be the case now.
On September 17, I wrote that Microsoft should forego purchasing a stake in AOL and focus on further developing and marketing its own products, namely MSN Search. It seems that Microsoft has seen the light and will do just that. It is possible that Microsoft could still buy into AOL, but a Google and Comcast investment now seems more likely. Instead, Microsoft is teaming up with Yahoo to take two competing products and make them even better and more ubiquitous. I think this is a smart move by Microsoft. As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry, I think the company should also further press AOL to link its instant messaging program, AIM, with MSN/Windows Messenger. It does not need to take an equity stake in AOL to achieve this goal. Global instant messaging would be a healthy move by the technology industry. If cell phones can text message seamlessly, why can’t computers?
Do I think that Google should buy a stake in AOL? It’s debatable. It should if it wants to keep AOL as a customer. I think Google sees the investment as more than a way to stop Microsoft from supplanting Google as AOL’s search engine. In recent months, Google has made announcement after announcement indicating that its business model is starting to converge with Yahoo!’s. Not content to merely manage Internet search, Google is now scanning books and offering maps, photos services, chat, groups, E-mail, online shopping, you name it. Google is fast becoming more like Yahoo!, which in and of itself may not be the best move for Google. If it does become more a content provider like Yahoo!, rather than a content deliverer, then a stake in AOL (a division of Time Warner), makes sense. I think that Google should focus more on content delivery, such as offering Sun Microsystem’s Star Office in a free Google software package, rather than on building content. Google is much too far behind Yahoo! to directly compete with Yahoo! as a media company.
I don’t know whether any decision makers at Microsoft read my September 17th blog entry. Nevertheless, they got the message.
Note to MNMikeD: I’m not an economist, but I am an optimist.