Microsoft's bid for Yahoo has attracted the world's attention, but as the deadline looms for the two companies to conclude a deal, the technology...
Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo has attracted the world’s attention, but as the deadline looms for the two companies to conclude a deal, the technology industry is not exactly waiting with bated breath.
In many ways, it has already moved on to the next big thing.
At major technology conferences this month in the Seattle area, the hot topics were clean technology, renewable energy, smart mobile phones, Web services and global health.
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In an hourlong panel discussion on technology trends and innovation Thursday, the Microsoft-Yahoo question took up about five minutes.
The lack of attention signals a shift in what excites industry watchers about the future, and where they think the world’s largest software company fits.
To be sure, Microsoft is still the biggest technology employer in the region, and its offer, valued at $44.6 billion at the time it was announced, would be one of the largest acquisitions in technology history.
But some say mergers of that size rarely work, and integrating the two separate systems will be daunting.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurial ideas and venture capital are moving into new areas.
The annual Washington Technology Summit in Bellevue earlier this month featured technologies for detecting cancer and turning waste into energy.
The Washington Technology Industry Association recently changed its name from WSA, which started as the Washington Software Association, to better represent the scope of the state’s technology, including newcomers in fields such as biotechnology and medical devices.
At the association’s annual investment forum this week, Keith Grinstein, a partner in Second Avenue Partners, called Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo “a complete head-scratcher.” Only one of the three panelists, Pacific Crest Securities Research Director Steve Lidberg, agreed with the move. He said Microsoft’s approach would not be innovative enough to compete with Google.
In San Francisco, where Topix Chief Executive Chris Tolles was attending the Web 2.0 conference, Microsoft also failed to provoke the concern among competitors that it has in the past.
“This is the big fearsome beast from Redmond?” he asked. “These guys are the big bad wolf, and they’re getting their clocks cleaned. It’s like the Keystone Kops go to the Web. Microsoft has been so irrelevant. It’s like, what happened?”
Regardless of whether the merger goes through, Mike McSherry, a strategic consultant for Clearwire, predicted that Google would grow at a faster pace than Microsoft in the next five years.
“Microsoft will lose at Google’s expense,” he said.
Yet Google has become so dominant in search technology that more competition would be a good thing, analysts said.
“I wonder if there comes a time when Google becomes a monster,” Grinstein said. “We don’t see it today. It’s cuddly, friendly, do you feel lucky?”
Lidberg pointed out that markets of the future are largely outside the U.S. — in places like China — where Google has had mixed results and faces more competition than Microsoft does.
Google is unlikely to seriously challenge Microsoft in providing software for business customers, said Sid Parakh, assistant vice president of equity research at McAdams Wright Ragen.
So Microsoft should continue to do what it does best, he said.
“Microsoft is well-established in what it sells to international customers,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s in pretty good shape.”
Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718