Monday, February 04, 2008

Yahoo and Microsoft; Mixing Oil and Water

Every since Microsoft announced its $44.6 billion dollar offer for Yahoo, there have been many articles flying around about the potential merger. What I find most interesting, is the lack of coverage of the technology issues around such an integration.

I have seen only two articles that have mentioned technology differences between the two companies as an integration challenge. I think this is a huge oversight in the coverage of the acquisition.

From what I know of Microsoft, and what I have heard of Yahoo's technology, you simply cannot downplay the challenge of putting these two companies together. They are polar opposites where engineering is concerned, and Microsoft is living in a dream world if they think they are going to get any synergy from combining the two engineering teams.

Good software developers tend to be pretty picky about the technologies they work with, and are probably with the company they are with, in large part, because of the technologies employed.

In the case of Microsoft, there is no speculation about what technologies will be employed. They will be Microsoft technologies, period. This is illustrated by Microsoft's acquisition of HotMail. HotMail was deployed on an open source infrastructure, and I believe they were using BSD as the operating system. When Microsoft acquired them, the first thing Microsoft wanted to do was move HotMail to a Microsoft platform. Of course, this failed at first, but I believe they eventually did succeed in getting HotMail moved to a Windows platform. With the difficulties of just moving this one application, you have to consider moving the entire Yahoo portfolio over to a new platform to be an insurmountable task.

From everything I've heard about Yahoo's technology platform, it is largely based on open source. Just like HotMail was. If I were a Yahoo software developer, and I was asked to move my work to a Microsoft platform, I would simply quit. Now, they will have a Microsoft retention package that will attempt to keep them at the company, but I really don't see this as something that will keep the most talented folks around. Now, Microsoft could decide to allow the Yahoo platform to be the platform that stays, but this is so totally against the Microsoft culture, that I don't see this happening. This also poses a lot of problems for all their existing technology and their other acquisitions. Would they truly be willing to throw all the other technology away, or have those engineers move their technology to open source, and into the Yahoo infrastructure? Again, I don't see that happening, and they would also risk losing those existing engineers for the same reason that Yahoo engineers would leave.

If this merger isn't akin to mixing oil and water, I don't know what is!

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