The rumours have been rumbling for a while that Microsoft will buy Facebook, and predictably that's producing reactions. Folks ranging from Robert Scoble (Microsoft doesn't deserve facebook) to Fred Wilson (Facebook will sit tight) have opined on the topic.
A number of people (including some inside the Redmond Borg that I've spoken with) seem to be saying that the folks there don't get it. Never mind that 17,000+ Microsofties have Facebook profiles, or that they have a very profitable advertising relationship with Facebook, or that the developer division is busy cranking out tools that target Facebook as a platform… those dummies in MSN land wouldn't know a Facebook from a Faceplant. In fact, pretty much the company strategy is to miss the social networking revolution all together, just like they missed that other revolution called the Internet. But don't worry, shareholders… the invincible Windows franchise is going to carry the day.
C'mon folks. Let's put aside our prejudices, and assume that (a) anytime a new platform emerges overnight with 30 million plus users Redmond is going to wake up and be interested, and (b) their choice to have a relationship with Facebook is a positive sign of support.
In fact, it's the latter point that is most interesting. Prior to this, aside from the MacOS, does anyone recall what the last non-Microsoft platform that Microsoft targeted was? Think way back to the early 1990's and OS/2.
This could be:
- Facebook as the new Macintosh — a profitable new revenue stream for Microsoft.
- Facebook as the new Netscape — a way to get their toes wet before conducting an all-out assault on the social networking space of their own.
- Facebook as the new WebTV — a prelude to an acquisition.
- Facebook as a way for Microsoft to participate in the profits from the social networking revolution, and potentially gain a competitive advantage on Google / Yahoo / AOL.
However you look at it, of the portal players out there Microsoft has the most cosy relationship with Facebook of them all. From this vantage point it doesn't look at all like Microsoft is unaware of the value of Facebook.