If Microsoft Buys Yahoo: What We'd Love--and Hate

PC World
Saturday, February 2, 2008; 12:19 AM

It's the year 2010. Microsoft owns Yahoo and has just changed the name of Flickr to Microsoft Flickr Live Photo-Sharing Service for Digital Camera Enthusiasts. The service is still free, but Windows Vista users will have to validate their copy of Vista as "genuine" first to use it. What has Microsoft wrought?

That's just one of the nightmares we can foresee from a Microsoft-Yahoo merger. But some good things could ensue for computer users too. Here's what we'd love - and hate - to see happen.

Google has been untouchable in many aspects when it comes to search, Web innovations, and free cool services such as Google Maps. But perhaps Google has grown too complacent. While we are waiting to see what becomes of Google's mobile strategy,we're less enthralled by services such as Knol. We want to see the combined force of Microsoft and Yahoo give Google an honest run for its money when it comes to innovative online services.

The shuttering of Yahoo or MSN services is something we'd hate to see (actually, we wouldn't shed any tears over Windows Live), but it's inevitable some will get the axe, giventhe overlapping services owned by Microsoft and Yahoo. The merged company would simply create too many redundant services and the odds are some of our beloved services would be killed. Branded services such as Yahoo Mail and Hotmail would survive, but there is a good chance they'd share one development team. Over time the services would become virtually identical, sharing features, functions, bugs, and limitations. Microsoft's instant messaging system sneezes, for example, and Yahoo Messenger catches a cold.  

We think both behemoths could learn a lot from the other especially when it comes to the look, feel, and usability of Web pages and services. We'd like to see Windows Live integrated into simpler interfaces. Right now there isWindows LiveandMicrosoft Office Live Small Business. Both are not tied to directly either to the Windows OS or Microsoft Office. Both Microsoft Live sites seem so disconnected.

Yahoo was best in the early days at keeping the interface simple on services such as Yahoo Travel. Today's Yahoo can't match the minimalism of many Google offerings, but it still has designs that are simpler and easier to use than many counterparts at Microsoft.

Combining the two giants will create confusion.   Could you use your MSN Messenger ID to login to Yahoo Mail? Will your Passport be accepted at Yahoo's border?

Love: Uber Media Site

We'd like to see MSN-Yahoo team with NBC (and related partners) and a variety of Internet TV startups to make a one-stop destination for video content.Good sites like Hulu.comand other Web-based video on demand sites are spread across the Web in a hodgepodge manner with no central site to serve as an online media master.

Yahoo is much more a traditional media company than Google at this stage and already offers great text and some TV news. Couple Yahoo with MSN andMicrosoft's Web technologies (such as Silverlight)and you could see the Web's first media powerhouse.  

Google is looking to gobble up DoubleClick, which has some not so positive privacy implications. Now if Microsoft buys Yahoo what Google doesn't know about you Microsoft will. It just is a bit too creepy to think of our digital footprints being so completely tracked. Live Search, Flickr, Yahoo News, MSN LIfestyle channel. With all its data it would have on us, Microsoft could come up with a personalized probability data feed that might be shockingly accurate.

Yahoo and MSN will finally give Google a run for its money when it comes to search. Google owns 57 percent of the search engine market, and Yahoo and Microsoft own together 34 percent, according toSearch Engine Watch. Given the combined search knowhow of Microsoft and Yahoo we'd like to see both breathe some new life into search technology. Yahoo already has someinteresting tools such as Search Assistant and Shortcutsthat can make searching easier than Google. Check outMicrosoft's Live Search Clubto see how Live Search is getting smarter. Together we'd like to see Microsoft and Yahoo make search results more relevant and smarter.

Microsoft and Yahoo combined would have a dynamite mobile offering without much heavy lifting. We'd like to see a marriage of Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system and its mobile business focus merged with Yahoo.We love Yahoo's mobile offeringsand its mobile search, maps, and email. Yahoo already has close ties to mobile carriers so it might not take long for the strengths of both mobile teams to trickle down to our cell phones.

If the mobile offerings from Microhoo! are too strong, they could strangleGoogle's Android mobile operating systemat birth. And that would be a shame, since the open source effort promises usersa more customizable phone than they've ever had. Fortunately, Android has some significant backers of its own and a nascent developers' community (Mobile Handset Alliance). But given Microsoft's industry clout and its cutthroat competitive spirit and Yahoo's cozy relationship with carriers, Google's Android platform could be in for a big fight.

Live Maps seems to be one of the few Microsoft web apps that are actually good, and it may actually be better than Google Maps. (It certainly seems more up to date.) Meanwhile, Yahoo Maps suffers from a lame interface and more limited view options.

Neither Yahoo Mail nor Hotmail is all that compelling on its own, but ifHotmail's new interfacewere applied toYahoo's mail service(which doesn't kill your account so quickly if you don't log in), it might actually be worth using.

For more on this story, go to ourspecial page on the proposed Microsoft-Yahoo merger.

© 2008 PC World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved