Is Ballmer Crowdsourcing His POV On A Twitter Acquisition?

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.”

Should Microsoft Buy Twitter, Crowdsource, Element 79 Advertising Chicago

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

More Broken Windows for Microsoft

First the good news: Windows 7 is a vast improvement over Vista.

Now the bad news courtesy of this post on CNNMoney: in a survey of 100,000 customers, 31% reported problems with their upgrade process.

2484002207_ef584c50bbThe computer savvy might be tempted to dismiss that group as wonky old people or total NOOBs, or just some mouth-breathing, non PC-savvy subset of the American public (peopleofwalmart, anyone?).

But that kind of misses the point.  Computers should make our lives easier, they should handle rote or complicated tasks automatically, simplifying processes to lower the barriers between people and the things they hope to accomplish.

Yes, you can download a patch or find a code to disable plug-ins so your screen won’t freeze.  But still, consumers have to migrate large volumes of their files once they do work their way through the upgrade experience.  Why?

Look, I may not be mister digital, but even I recognize 31% represents a rather atrocious user experience.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Memo to Twitter Users re: What The Bing Announcement Really Means–Prepare To See The Whale More Often


Microsoft’s announcement that they signed both Facebook and Twitter to bring real-time updates to their Bing search engine has many posters aflutter over the possibility that their one-liners could find a huge audience far beyond their own friend lists.  And the news that Bing will expand contracted URL’s to more clearly reflect Tweet content is both critical and technologically impressive.

But from that same perspective, the tech demands on Twitter’s API could cause its already wobbly stability to overload and crash even more frequently.  On the upside, Bing isn’t particularly huge yet and the market for social search remains an unknown, but any additional back-end service call volume on their database threatens a system that already delivers a breathtaking volume of data.

Interestingly, the deal is non-exclusive, which means the behemoth Google may be taking a wait-and-see policy before jumping into the fray.

If that happens, get ready for a Shamu-fest of whales.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79