OS X 10.10 and iOS 8 aren’t that Close

What I mean to say is, they aren’t the kissing cousins I thought they would be…which is a good thing.

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Late last week I saw a quote from an Apple exec stating that total convergence between OS X and iOS was not an organizational goal for the company. I’m very relieved.  The thought of a completely unified OS experience on my desktop and mobile platform of choice had me a tad concerned.  I mean, I use one while I am out and about. I use the other when I want to get serious work done, and need a bit more power.  You aren’t going to get that in a mobile OS and device.

I recently found out that OS X 10.10 (currently code named, “Syrah” – a common wine grape found to be the genetic offspring of two different grapes, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, originating in southeastern France) and iOS 7/8 won’t be completely converging. Apple has stated that it’s not a goal for the company. Instead, Apple will insure that the two have the same look and feel.

OS X 10.10 and iOS 7/8 will be related, but not the same. “Syrah” (which is not known to be the desktop OS’ “official” name) will have a flatter look and feel than Mavericks does, but it won’t be as drastic a change as we saw between Mountain Lion and Mavericks or between iOS 6 and iOS 7.  There may be a bit more blur and translucency, a bit more white space here and there.  Its menu bars may be more defined.  Its window controls may be more angular; but you won’t see a complete retooling of every app.

When the public will see it also remains to be disclosed.  There aren’t any developer program betas or builds available as yet. Builds that are available are currently only distributed internally.  However, if Apple remains true to its release schedule between 2011 and 2013 (Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks), we should see something soon.  Lion, Mountain Lion were released between July and August of 2011 and 2012, respectively. Mavericks was released between in October of last year. If Apple plans to stick to this rapid release schedule, we should start to hear more news about beta releases in the coming weeks and months.  Currently, there is no such activity in the developer community that I am aware of.

How do you feel about desktop and mobile convergence? Is there a need for a defined line between the two, or are you interested in the whole, “one OS to rule them all” concept that many – including me – thought was Apple’s goal? Should they be separate? Do they have to be?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the discussion area below.

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Microsoft Rebrands SkyDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is coming to a PC near you, soon.

Microsoft recently announced in a blog post that it was rebranding its SkyDrive internet file access and storage product as Microsoft OneDrive.

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The move comes after Microsoft lost a trademark case to European TV provider BSkyB.  In June 2011, BSkyB filed suit against Microsoft over SkyDrive indicating that the use of the name would confuse its customers, as it is a streaming and mobile pay-TV provider and also had an online storage service called “Sky Store & Share” that it offered  from 2008-2011.

Rather than appeal the judgment that was granted by the England and Wales High Court in June 2013, Microsoft and BSkyB announced a settlement in July 2013 where Microsoft would rebrand its cloud based storage service. Sometimes its easier to concede defeat than prove your point, and while I don’t agree with the action (because its really unlikely users of BSkyB’s service would be confused by the names Microsoft SkyDrive and BSkyB Sky Store and Share… I’m just sayin’…)

What we’re seeing now are the results of that settlement. Microsoft will rebrand SkyDrive as OneDrive. The product was previously known as Live Mesh, Windows Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare before being rebranded as Microsoft SkyDrive in February of 2012.  The product has had one heck of a history and has had issues finding its identity in a market dominated by Dropbox, Google Drive as well as competing with Apple’s iCloud.

Microsoft is spinning this rebranding as the “one” place where you can put all of your stuff. If you’ve used previous versions of SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro, you don’t need to do anything.  The service will continue to work like it always has. It’s really nothing more than a name change and rebranding of the product.

As a quick aside, I really like the way SkyDrive, now Microsoft OneDrive, works. If I wasn’t already huge into Google services, it’s a service I would seriously consider buying online storage from. Unfortunately, its pricing plans aren’t as generous with either storage or pricing options (see additional information later in this article). However, 25GB for free is a really nice plan, and is likely enough for most people. If you qualify for the 25GB plan, and don’t have cloud storage for your documents, this could be a really great option for you. You might want to look into it…

Interestingly enough, this is one area where Microsoft really has outshined Apple.  iCloud is a huge mess. Its API’s are confusing and difficult to work with. Many developers who want to build iCloud support into their apps either don’t or can’t because it’s too difficult to work with or because the features they need aren’t built into the SDK/API.  Apple even has trouble getting iCloud to work with its own apps.

Microsoft on the other hand has (now called) OneDrive support built into all of its apps.  OneNote can natively save notebooks either directly to OneDrive’s application interface or physically to a synchronized folder in OneDrive. The choice is yours.  Apple could really do themselves a favor here and figure out how this works and then model iCloud after it. It might do them a great deal of good. I know Apple wants ALL of iCloud to work like OneNote works with OneDrive – where your data saves there automatically and just appears as available when you open the app, but that’s part of the problem that they’re having with the service. It doesn’t work right.

OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox all work the same way – they sync a folder and its subfolders to the cloud.  Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t want to do this. They’ve had ample opportunity to look at the model and try to use it.  For some reason, they don’t want the data on your drive if it doesn’t have to be. Instead, they want iCloud to be just another storage location – like any other folder that is physically ON your Mac – so you can save documents there and retrieve them when needed. The data doesn’t reside on your Mac. It’s out THERE somewhere. They just don’t have this figured out right yet. I don’t know why.  Both OneDrive and Google Drive can do that, and have desktop apps work with the data.

Interestingly enough, that was what Apple’s iDrive did about 6 or so years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t catch on…at ALL.  Apple discontinued the service and I can’t find any information on it under Apple’s name at all. iDrive itself is still available as a Dropbox-like clone.  It at least looks like it’s a decent option, and its pricing options seem very competitive.  Their 1/2 terabyte option, priced at $75 a year, is one of the best deals I’ve seen. Its 69% cheaper than Google Drive’s 400GB option (at $240 a year), and you get 100GB more space, too.

Unfortunately, right now, you can’t sync folder contents to Apple’s iCloud. If you could, I’d use it instead of Google Drive.  However, it doesn’t, so I don’t.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple reconsiders that strategy so that more developers – and therefore, more applications – can use the service.

What do you think? Is the OneDrive rebrand a good move for Microsoft? Can Apple fix iCloud, or its always going to be a hot mess?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the discussion, below.

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Customize your Windows experience with AeroBlend

716-icon-AeroBlendOne of the most interesting and fun things about Windows 7 and Windows 8 is that they are easily customizable. You can apply themes that not only change the way your desktop looks, but you can customize nearly every part of the UI, making it look the way you want.  While Windows provides an internal interface to help you do this, its isn’t always easy. Third party apps that can do that can sometimes cost you a bit of money, which is why you might want to look at AeroBlend. It’s a UI customization app for Windows, and its free.

AeroBlend automatically changes the color of Windows UI elements to match the current wallpaper or the active application. Wallpaper mode is probably the most recognizable mode, and the one that gets used the most often.  As wallpaper is changed, either manually or via the Windows slideshow, AeroBlend changes the Windows color. Your UI elements can reflect the pallet of the active application or its icon.

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AeroBlend is a cool little application. If you’re looking for some way to have your UI elements (Windows, buttons, task bar, etc.) look like the wallpaper or application you’re using, then this is the app for you.  The app, however, doesn’t do much more than this at the current moment.

It might be nice if this turned into a theme creating app that allowed you to create Windows themes and save them to *.themepack files so that they could be shared and distributed between PC’s. That might be something worth paying for…

download AeroBlend

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Apple to Release Larger iPhone, Discontinue iPhone 5c

There are lots of rumors hitting the airwaves about Apple’s new iPhone plans…

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I watched the Ashton Kutcher “Jobs” movie last night, and while I won’t go into a review of that film here, even with its disappointments, it DID do one thing pretty well – it gave many an insight on what Steve Jobs may have been like at the office…what kind of person he may have been to work with…sorta. The movie, unfortunately, left you wanting a great more than it was willing to deliver.

HOWEVER, if there’s one thing that I do know – did know – even before watching that movie, it’s to understand that regardless of what it did or didn’t show us about Steve Jobs as a person, the iPhone 5c would never have seen the light of day if he was still here.  It’s a shadow of what the iPhone 5s is, and it just wouldn’t have made the cut.

green-iphone5cAccording to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Apple is planning on discontinuing the iPhone 5c this year, due in no small part to its dismal sales and demand for the device.  That, and save its colored, plastic backing and lack of Touch Sensor (and a couple other key, internal components) the device is nearly identical to the iPhone 5s. I say good riddance.  From a technical perspective, the device was about 1/2 of the iPhone 5s. Technically, buying an iPhone 5 would have been a better deal. From a product perspective, in my opinion, the device did nothing but cannibalize sales of the iPhone 5s. The 5c may have had a subsidized price of about $100 bucks, but older iPhones – the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4s – I think would have been a better consumer choice if you were looking for an entry into the iOS ecosystem but didn’t have a large budget. Either way, the device is rumored to be discontinued with the release of the iPhone 6…

The iPhone 6 is currently rumored to be announced as early as June of this year.  The big feature for it is thinner and wider. Current rumors include an iPhone 6 (and for lack of a better name) iPhone 6c with a 5+ inch screen and 4.5 inch screen, respectively.  Both devices are rumored to also contain 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

As far as the implementation or desire of these features in the actual device, I know that Apple is going to be very picky about screen size. They have a firm belief that a smartphone should be easily operated with one hand, so the screen can’t be too wide.  I happen to agree.  While most people use two hands to operate their phones, being able to do that with one hand is an important distinction.  The device likely won’t get too much wider than it currently is.  However, the screen could get a little wider, and it wouldn’t hurt too much. Any more than say, another 1/4 to 1/2 inch wider, though and you’re going to risk a sprained thumb…

As with all Apple rumors, this is pure speculation; and while fun to ponder, these rumors are really nothing more than fodder to make your garden grow. Predicting what Apple will actually release is an art, and one that many, if not most to all, don’t excel in, including investor analysts.  Sometimes, they can be the worst of the prognosticating lot, as they have to deliver for the investors they try to prognosticate for. Dollah-dollah bills, y’all…

As far as what else the device may contain, or what else it may do, I have no idea. Apple released the original innovation for the device between 2001 and 2007 (iPod to iPod Touch to iPhone).  Everything that’s happened to the device since then has been evolutionary instead of revolutionary.  Where they can or will go with the device going forward probably won’t come with such a giant step from device model to device model.

Even after almost 2 years with an iPhone 5, there’s nothing really WRONG with my iDevice. I have no real reason to upgrade it other than AT&T says I can, and I may want <this new, incremental feature> or <that new, incremental feature>.  If you want the big, “I gotta have <this new feature>” experience from an upgrade, then you may want to wait more than 2 years.  Based on what’s going on with the iPhone, it may be that I wait until the iPhone 6s (or whatever THAT’S called) before I think about upgrading.

Now that Q1 2014 is firmly out of the gate, you can expect to see more iDevice rumors as well as iOS 7.x or iOS 8 rumors beginning to churn prior to the annual iDevice event everyone is expecting later this year.  What future versions of iOS will do, along with the implementation of any new hardware components, remains to be seen.  So far, iOS 7 is working pretty well. Aside from the security based, lock screen bugs that have come up with the last 2 major releases of iOS, I don’t hear many people clamoring for the implementation of this, that or the other feature.  I also haven’t heard anything definitive coming out of the iOS development community on what Apple will or should implement in future releases of iOS 7.x, let alone, iOS 8.

Now, depending on what Apple decides to do with the iWatch – if and when it releases that piece of highly anticipated wearable technology – I can see a number of different hardware and software based tweaks that might or will be implemented with both the iPhone as well as the iPad.  If it could do most of what the Pebble Steel will do, most of what the Galaxy Gear does,  as well as incorporating what the Fitbit Force, and Nike Fuel Band SE and others do NATIVELY, that device could work with a new, updated and REVOLUTIONARY iPhone very well; and that’s something that I’d like to see and would likely buy as soon as it was released.

What about you?  Do you want a wide(er) screened iPhone?  Are you glad to see the iPhone 5c be set out to pasture?  Are you interested in the iWatch or any other wearable tech?  Why don’t you join us in the discussion area below and tell us what you think.

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Windows Threshold – Bringing Back Windows 7 & the Desktop

It’s clear from the “retrohancements” in Windows 8.1 Update 1 and Windows Threshold, that Microsoft is saying, “mea culpa.”

image2993This is just a (short) update to one or two other columns that I’ve written here for Soft32 over the past few weeks and months.   It’s clear to me that Microsoft is firmly embracing its wishy-washy stance and back tracking not only on the implementation of the Metro/ ModernUI that it introduced with Windows 8 and Windows RT, but on the vision they had to change the direction of mainstream computing.

None of this is news. People have been saying this stuff for a little bit. However, it occurred to me while reading an article by Mary Joe Foley recently that Microsoft really has no one else to blame but themselves.

Windows XP was initially released in August of 2001, almost 13 years ago.   Windows XP SP3, the OS’ last major release and most current version, was released in April of 2008, nearly 6 years ago. Windows Vista, which used much the same UI, but is largely considered a flop by many industry leaders, was released in November of 2006, nearly 7 years ago. Windows 7, which uses much the same UI was released in July of 2009, over 4 years ago.

So what’s the point with the history lesson..?   Simple – Microsoft has had the same UI in place for approximately 15 years, or 50% of the modern computing history (and by modern computing history, I mean anything not mainframe/thin client based).

The world is hooked on the Windows desktop.   Microsoft’s licensing deals with most companies have allowed enterprise users to bring copies of Windows and Office to their homes for under   a $100 bucks combined.   That same software combination that would have cost nearly $750 at retail, depending on which versions of the two software titles you purchased. They further reinforced this desktop monopoly by making  many of their enterprise titles – Server editions of Windows, Exchange, SQL Server, etc., accessible for “testing” purposes via different developer and technical programs as well as other licensing programs that brought enterprise and business versions of Microsoft software to an end user’s home.

Somewhere during this 15 year dairy farm period where Microsoft didn’t do much more than milk the cash cows they had reared, someone got off the merry go round and looked around, realizing that the party was pretty much over.   At that point, they looked at the tablet and personal device trends – the CoIT and BYOD challenges that many IT managers were facing – and decided it was time to embrace that vision.   Unfortunately, this required a huge paradigm change not only for their products and their internal processes, but for their customers as well.

Going cold turkey is the (usually) best way to break a habit…unless of course, you’re talking about the way I get work done, and then maybe not so much. It’s clear that the rest of the world felt the same way, as the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been loud and arduous.   The Start Button is back. The Start Menu is confirmed to be coming back (though just how that, or any other returning feature, will be reimplemented is unknown as of this writing).

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no one to “blame” for the rejection of this new computing vision but themselves; and its two fold.

1.    If it ain’t broke…
If they had retired XP at a much earlier date, if Vista hadn’t been a train wreck, and if Windows 7 wasn’t viewed as the OS to save us from the disaster that Vista was or from the stale nature that was (and currently still is) Windows XP, then perhaps they wouldn’t be in the pickle that they’re in.   The world doesn’t stand still.   Moore’s Law was clearly in effect, and all of Microsoft’s billions couldn’t build blinders large enough to hide the changing computing trends
2.    A Lack of Vision and Leadership
Ballmer is a self-proclaimed sales guy. He doesn’t get computing and mobility very well, and unfortunately, those two combined to create the current computing trend that Apple, Google   and Samsung are clearly leading with their desktop and mobile operating systems.

Revelations like this just point out to the public what I’m certain the MS Board must already know – Microsoft has a long comeback road in front of it; and the organization really needs to pick the right CEO.   With both Gates and Ballmer remaining on the Board after Ballmer leaves the Microsoft CEO spot, that person’s job isn’t going to be easy. Not only do they have a public relations mess to fix – the public is not happy with the direction that Windows 8.x has been going and wants a change, the evolutionary rather than revolutionary path that Office has been taking coupled with both title’s high price tags – but the new Microsoft CEO will have to create both mission and vision strategies that fit well with the current strategic direction set in motion by Steve Ballmer (did I mention that he will still have a lot to say about the company’s direction after the new CEO is named..??).

No matter how you decide to look at this, it’s clear to me that Microsoft and its Board of Directors painted themselves into this corner. How they are going to get themselves out, is up to them.   I know that the entire world is waiting and watching. I know I am…and I’m certain I’ll have a thing or two to say about it in the coming months as developments unfold.

What about you?   What do you think of all of this?   Did Microsoft do this to themselves? Are they victims of circumstance, or did they just sort of arrive here because their product roadmap dropped them at the corner? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and let me know what you think?

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HP Applying OS Pressure

HP’s “Back by Popular Demand” Promotion confirms – Windows 8 really does suck.

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I heard this while listening to episode 926 of TNT, “Get Adam Curry on the Phone.” My initial response was that this was a huge problem for Microsoft. HP is not only offering a current PC i.e., not refurbished and not a clearance item with Windows 7 on it, but it’s doing so at a $150 discount.

HP is offering the HP Pavilion 15t-n200 Notebook PC with Windows 7. It has  a 4th generation Intel Core i5-4200U Processor and is priced $599.  This is huge for both consumers and the enterprise, as many users have really struggled with Windows 8. Many enterprises are still using Windows XP and their IT departments are more inclined to refresh those aging endpoints with Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.  The Windows 8 UI is totally different from Windows XP and the learning curve is steep.

Many organizations aren’t willing to take the productivity hit associated with the new desktop OS. That coupled with the fact that many critical, proprietary and other traditional enterprise apps have not been fully vetted or optimized for Windows 8 makes them an unlikely candidate for the touch-centric OS.  Add in the absence of a Start Button and a more traditional Start Menu and you begin to clearly see the hot mess that Windows 8.x has created for itself.

I think the biggest issue here is that Microsoft is having to compete against itself with much older products.  Windows 8 has less than a 10% market share of all Windows PC’s worldwide, and they’re under a great deal of pressure to:

1.Make Windows 8.x work – Microsoft has a long row to hoe, here. Their Windows 8.1 Update 1, or Windows 8.2,whatever they’re going to call it, has a large bill to pay. It needs to right more wrongs than Windows 8.1 did gain more confidence, more user satisfaction than it currently enjoys and it really doesn’t have a lot of time to do that with.

2.Distance themselves as quickly and as far as they can from Windows 8.x. Microsoft can’t make Windows 9 get here quick enough.  While its next OS, code named Threshold is currently scheduled for a Spring 2015 release, for Microsoft, this next year is going to crawl.

Microsoft’s PC market is losing a lot of ground to the tablet market, especially the Android tablet market. Not only are Android tablets cheap , many decent models can be had for between $250 to $450.  Microsoft’s tablet offerings, Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro are much more expensive, and Windows RT doesn’t have the ecosystem of apps and content that Android has, yet another area where Microsoft seems to be seriously struggling.

HP’s move to bypass Windows 8.x and instead offer the outdated Windows 7 is a slap in the face for Microsoft. It’s clearly a challenge.  Microsoft clearly needs to do better with Windows 8.1+ and Windows 9. It needs to make serious advances with its tablet offerings, and either change, enhance or open its mobile ecosystem to insure that it attracts users, or its going to have some serious relevance issues in the next 5-7 years. It can ill afford a third Vista, let alone two…

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Repair and maintain your Windows PC with Windows Repair

icon1348083463If there’s one thing that I have learned over the years its that keeping your Windows PC running without issues can be complicated.  These machines can do a lot and its not always easy to fix the problems once they’ve occurred. Sometimes, its easier to just blow the box and start over.  Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Sometimes the existence of important data, or specific peripheral drivers, other add-ons or reasons prevent you from taking that route. Its at this point that having comprehensive tools like Windows Repair, a fix-it and maintenance utility for Windows – can make the difference.

I’ve written well over 3000 individual tips for Windows covering Windows XP to Windows 7 over a 15 year period, and between us…Windows can be complicated. Fixing issues or problems with the OS, let along getting past a virus or other malware, can be challenging at times. In many cases, my recommendation is to save yourself some time, get your data off the machine, and then simply blow the machine and start from scratch. However, that isn’t always an option.

Reinstalling ANY operating system, whether you want to or not, regardless of experience level can take a long time; and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, things don’t come back the way you think they will.  Tweaking.com’s Windows Repair is meant for situations like this, and I’m really glad its there. The application is an all in one repair tool that should help you fix many of the bigger Windows problems, including registry errors and file permission errors.

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Windows Repair is a good app, with a good beginning. It can do a lot of things to help repair Windows, but it isn’t a universal cure.  The app is still very young and needs to mature. It needs to be able to determine what the problem is and then either fix it, or offer ways to resolve the issue.

Most of the big problems that afflict Windows, aside from malware attacks, are driver and registry issues.  While Windows Repair can fix some registry issues, the Registry is a complicated animal. Modifying it doesn’t always provide the results you think or hope it will.

Driver issues are another huge problem. While you hope that drivers for peripherals work as intended, the world of Windows drivers can be a huge mess.  Not all of them are created equally, and in many cases, they don’t work and play well with other drivers.  While Windows Repair may not be able to resolve these issues, it would be nice if it could ID the potential conflicts and then provide download links to the latest versions of all drivers involved. If that doesn’t resolve the issue(s), then informing users that the drivers are known to conflict, or indicating that it will inform others of the potential conflict could be a huge help.  It would also be nice if the app used your PC’s currently installed malware software to scan and remove malware, especially if your’re using MS Security Essentials on Windows 7 or MS Defender in Windows 8.x.

download Windows Repair

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Yahoo COO Dismissed

 Further problems for Yahoo and CEO Marissa Mayer make its comeback less likely.
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I saw recently on Linkedin where Marissa Mayer gave COO Henrique de Castro his walking papers. It’s unfortunate, as it indicates a couple of things:

1. The organization is still struggling a year  and a half or so after Mayer came on board

2. Her current strategy isn’t working

de Castro was Mayer’s first major hire as president and CEO of Yahoo. He was previously Google’s VP of Partner Business Solutions, and his role at Yahoo was to increase advertising revenue. From what I’ve been able to see on this, Yahoo’s display advertising revenue fell by 7% in the last quarter of 2013. They now sit third behind both Google and Facebook, respectively. de Castro was given a $64.6M severance package as well as an uncharacteristically cold exit.  From what has been reported by Bloomberg the separation as well as ReCode the announcement from Mayer were both very sudden and cold.  Even though Mayer brought him over from Google to help her turn Yahoo around, it’s clear the she and de Castro didn’t see eye-to-eye on the operation vision and direction taken over the last 18 months.

Yahoo is in bigger trouble than most people thought.  More than I thought…  This is the one good thing about Google, though.  They have a very diverse mission and product portfolio.  Yahoo was all about search.  Back in the mid to late 1990’s they were the “Google” of their day, if you will, leading the search industry with MSN (now Bing), Lycos and Excite falling, literally, far behind them.  Their biggest issues have been, at least in my opinion, timing (they went public in 1996), lack of an appropriate product diversity, and weak management.

Timing has been an issue for Yahoo simply due to events near the time of its birth. They were created in 1994, went online in 1995, and then shortly after that, Internet bubble burst.  Yahoo’s product portfolio was largely in Internet properties, apps, portals, as well as search, and its revenues tanked. Unfortunately, strategies implemented by CEO’s Jerry Yang (1996 – 2009) and Carl Bartz (2009-2011) didn’t do much for the organization, and it has continually floundered. Marissa Mayer has been on board now for about 18 or so months.

Frankly, I think she is running out of time. She needs to get something together quickly – I’m thinking she might have 6-12 months left to produce some results – or she may also be out of a job, and Yahoo’s board may have some tough decisions to make.  Mayer has to get it together, show clear vision and direction, along with a personnel strategy to get the job done. While she did have that in place with de Castro, his failure to execute isn’t helping her; and she may have to go back to the drawing board (or at least she better before the Board does…)

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