Microsoft has taken the unprecedented move of hiring the head of a major competitor to run one of their most critical business units - MSN. Which may reveal more than anything just how stuffed the online division is.
For the Wall Street Journal have announced that Microsoft is about to announce that Steve Berkowitz, ex-head of Ask.com and one of the most senior executives at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, is to take over the running of MSN.
Berkowitz is credited with the recent success at Ask.com. He sure needs the practice for MSN - which looks to need a serious dose of improvement. First up will be figuring out where MSN should go and how they can compete vis a vis Google, Yahoo et al.
Given that MSN is and likely always will be owned by Microsoft - I would have thought that their USP should be "the portal for advanced and comprehensive software services". If I want to I should be able to manage my diary, my life, my data and even my office applications from MSN.
The new MSN should have the most advanced email service and they should tightly integrate everything with MS Mobile. Then they should deliver the most functional and value adding search engine a la Ask.com. Maybe they should even buy Ask.com?!
Content should be secondary, comprehensive, but secondary. MSN should be my online alternative to a PC's hard drive. Then MSN can differentiate versus the other giant portals and search engines - and maybe even get a great deal more attention and respect within Microsoft.
And if they do not do it - Google or Yahoo probably will. Then Microsoft will have thrown away their Internet legacy and one of the most valuable franchises on the Web going fowards.