Mary Jo Foley, who regularly blogs on ZDNet regarding all things Microsoft, wrote a post yesterday describing how CEO Steve Ballmer neither confirms nor denies any purchase interest in Twitter. Responding to a question on Tuesday about whether he might buy the microblogging service outright, Ballmer did little more than top line pro and con arguments. In just five sentences, he used “not clear” twice and “far less clear” once.
In an earlier time, this kind of non-response response would suggest he’s dodging the question. But these days, there’s a very good chance the Microsoft leader is doing something far cagier…
He may be crowdsourcing it.
With all their resources, Microsoft can get a raft of M&A analysts on the job in no time (and no doubt already has). But as Ballmer goes on to say in his (non)response, “…as an independent, they have a lot of value and a lot of credibility, I think, with their user community. Would they have that same credibility with the user community if they were captive? Not clear.”
For those keeping score, that was his third “not clear.”
My supposition doesn’t mean he can’t make the decision on his own–quite the contrary. Ballmer definitely will make the call. But he might not be at that point yet. Raising the issue might be a brilliant tactic to quickly amass informed opinion from a huge diversity of viewpoints–a treasure trove of input unfettered by corporate myopia and much more representative of the marketplace. Just by suggesting the argument, someone of his stature fires online debate among informed and passionate industry pundits and opinion leaders. In short order, he will be able to assess a wide spectrum of prevailing thinking on issues like how Microsoft might leverage Twitter, how it could evolve this new asset into a ‘real time search’ unit, and how to align social-computing technology into Windows. Best of all, these perspectives come fast, cheap, and readily accessible.
Crowdsourcing opinion in this manner makes smart business sense. The final purchase opinion will be his, but the information informing it could come from sources far and wide.
That much IS clear.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79