We’ll just admit it: We know nothing about the man. So, Yahoos, we’d be grateful for your input.
Here’s what we do know: Fixing Microsoft’s Internet business is going to require one hell of a talent. Not because there aren’t worthwhile assets there, and not because Microsoft lacks resources or conviction. Just because Microsoft has had 13 years to get its Internet act together, and it has failed to do it, and we just don’t see what is likely to change now. We also know that this is not even remotely about “technology.
Specifically, Dr. Lu is going to have to deal with the following:
- Mission. Microsoft has about a dozen different Internet businesses: search, display, ad network, portal, email, online apps, messaging, etc. It needs to have one. This is going to require a major structural re-org–all accomplished without offending the REAL power bases at Microsoft, the Windows and Office guys (see below.) It’s also going to require a brutal evaluation of where Microsoft can compete and where it can’t and why.
- Branding. “Microsoft’s Internet business” just isn’t going to cut it. Neither is the grab-bag of brands Microsoft has collected over the years, the existence of each of which appears to be an attempt to come up with something cool without offending one or another of the many other constituencies and brands within the Microsoft empire. Microsoft’s Internet business needs ONE BRAND. Now.
- Politics. At Microsoft, the Internet business will always play third banana to Windows and Office (and Steve Ballmer would be an idiot to run the company any other way). We assume that means that every time Dr. Lu does something that might annoy or threaten the Windows or Office guys, he’s going to have to get permission first. That is REALLY annoying. And it’s going to take a special kind of individual who can build a real business out of all these parts without being driven mad in the process.
- Profits. After 13 years of online striving, Microsoft’s Internet business is still burning billions of dollars a year. Even clobbered AOL is making money. If Microsoft’s Internet business is ever to be a real business, Microsoft has to fix this. That’s going to be no easy task.
So is the good Doctor a Superman? We hope so. If not, he’s just going to be the latest in a long line of Microsoft Internet honchos who have moved pieces around the board without ever really accomplishing anything.
Yahoo colleagues, we need to hear from you. Does he have what it takes? Please enlighten us!
See Also: Meet Microsoft’s New Digital Head: Qi Lu