TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: Yahoo spiral
The CV debacle that brought down Scott Thompson is another nail for Yahoo, while it's high noon for the Optus TV Now stoush.
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Yahoo boss Scott Thompson bites the bullet
The fudged resume saga at Yahoo has finally claimed the scalp of CEO Scott Thompson in what is an ignoble end for him and another black mark on the ailing internet pioneer’s reputation. Thompson was ostensibly brought in to clean things up at the ailing internet giant but spent the last weeks of his brief tenure trying to clear his name.
After the acrimonious split with former CEO Carol Bartz, the Scott Thompson CV debacle is another nail in the coffin of the internet pioneer which many say has entered a so-called ‘death spiral’.
It all started when activist hedge fund investor Third Point demanded Thompson’s head on the platter after doubts emerged about the veracity of his educational record. Yahoo's SEC filings said that Thompson has a bachelor's degree in computer science when his degree was really in accounting. While the board called it an "inadvertent error" most investors thought otherwise and given the mess the board has presided over the lack of foresight and due diligence here is astonishing.
Thompson, who started in January, promised to make Yahoo a nimbler beast and his first move was to lay off 14 per cent of its workforce. Cutting jobs offered savings $US375 million annually but while that has steadied the ship there is still no clear strategy as to how the company intends to start extricating itself from the revenue hole. Whether Thompson had an answer to that question is now a moot point given his spectacular fall from grace but it is an issue that is critical to Yahoo’s continued existence.
The one big winner out of this whole fracas is Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb, who can now officially raise the victory flag after waging a relentless war against Yahoo’s board. The demise of Thompson’s tenure along with the departure of Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock and board member Patti Hart are three big scalps for Loeb, who now has a seat at Yahoo’s board table. His first task will no doubt involve finding a new CEO for Yahoo and he should be more than aware that the time for words is now over, it’s time for action.
For the time being the crown rests on the head of Yahoo’s global media head, Ross Levinsohn. Levinsohn is the interim CEO and it’s unlikely that he will get the gig permanently.
The timing of Thompson CV debacle couldn’t have been more poignant given that a 28-year Mark Zuckerberg is about to take his $US96 billion baby public. The IPO road show may have had its hiccups and there is a legion of bears waiting for the social network to fall flat, but the fact is that when it comes to selling a vision Yahoo could learn a thing or two here from the social network.
High Noon for Optus TV Now
Moving closer to home, Optus has decided to take the TV Now fight to the High Court – and it hasn’t taken long for AFL boss Andrew Demetriou to voice his distaste for the telco.
Demetriou called the Optus a "disgusting organisation" which has acted "reprehensibly" and said the appeal was just plain "stupid". It would seem that Demetriou was particularly incensed by Optus boss Paul O’Sullivan’s comments that the "law was on our side.”
Truth be told, it’s hard to make any claims about who the law is with in this case. Optus had a good early run in the Federal Court only to be pegged back by the full bench after Telstra and the sporting codes appealed the initial decision. The High Court will be last line of appeal and just what the outcome will be is anyone’s guess.
Telstra's Foxtel appointment
Meanwhile, Telstra has appointed Robert Nason as the new chairman of Foxtel, succeeding retiring chairman Bruce Akhurst. Nason, currently Telstra's group managing director of business service and improvement, will take over from Akhurst on June 1. As part of the shuffle, Telstra's group managing director for innovation, products and marketing Kate McKenzie, will also be appointed to the Foxtel board.
Given all the conjecture about Telstra’s desire to take a bigger stake in the pay TV operator, Nason’s previous experience in Tabcorp’s race wagering and media businesses, including Sky Channel and Sydney radio station 2KY, should come in handy if and when the ACCC comes calling.
Steve Wozniak's price check
Steve Wozniak is in Australia and the Apple co-founder is making headline even before his speaking tour gets underway. Wozniak has stepped into the contentious price gouging debate, reportedly telling Australian consumers they shouldn’t be fleeced by the tech giants.
Now it would seem that Wozniak was quite surprised to find out just how much things cost in Australia – and we are not just talking about technology. He made a reference to higher import taxes and the fact that shipping costs were not even an issue for companies. All of this makes for great headlines but the reality is that the problem won’t be solved by a single inquiry and a real change will require the government asking far too many uncomfortable questions.