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Google & Yahoo Plan Merger; Brin & Page To Depart

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The rumors of a Google-Yahoo merger have leaked out, so I'm considering the embargo on that news off and will go ahead and tell what I know so far.

As Andy notes and Barry also mentions, there is indeed an agreement between the two companies that has been worked out. Neither company wanted the news to come out today, April Fool's Day. After all, Google watched how the major news of its Gmail rollout last year simply wasn't believed by some, because it came on April Fool's.

The merger, if allowed by investors not to mention regulators, would be colossal. We've had search mergers before, but never between two players that command such a large share of the search market. Combined, the two would control something like 70 percent of the "natural" search results that people see and nearly all of the paid listings out there.

Why would these two competitors -- and companies with largely different operating styles -- combine? Fear of Microsoft. While I've written many times before that Microsoft isn't going to walk all over Google -- much less both Google and Yahoo -- the two companies themselves are falling victim to the hype. Search is seen as so important, such a major future money maker, that they want to unite now.

An amazing number of details have yet to be worked out. We joked about a GooHoo site before, but that's actually one of the names being considered. Many within Google are arguing that there's no way the company name -- a synonym to some for search -- can be dropped. The leading compromise is that the company itself will be called Google-Yahoo, while the search site will be called Yahoo Google.

I know, it sounds odd -- but it does fit. The Yahoo home page would replace the "Web" tab with Google -- so people there would "Google" what they are looking for, in terms of general search. Meanwhile, Google itself would serve as a type of "pure" search space for the combined company.

The biggest stumbling block in all this has been over management issues. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are fiercely protective of the company they've built and the ideals they have for it. But in the months following the IPO, they've both become largely tired. In an amazing reversal, both are stepping down from executive duty.

Brin, known for his amateur trapeze acrobatics, is going to use his vast wealth to create a new circus to travel the world. He won't just fund the circus -- he plans to perform, as well. It's said he wants to do for circuses what he did for web search, make a massive redefinition.

Page is going to stay on with the company but concentrate on what he calls "searchable clothing," clothes that retain the knowledge you need.

In fact, it turns out that rumors of "Google underwear" were simply miscommunications of Page's vision. He does want to develop underwear, but this is smart underwear embedded with things like nano health monitors and computer memory that can be accessed from a variety of interfaces, be they PDAs, mobile phones or RFID chips embedded in the skin.

Why underwear? Because they are an item of clothing people always wear. Think of them as a platform, a universal operating system that's (almost) always on.

Obviously, people change their underwear often. But these smart underwear will wirelessly connect to the internet, staying in constant sync with a master database hosted by Google-Yahoo. Regardless of which pair you wear, they'll have the latest data. Need your schedule? Your underwear will have it. Need to do a web search? Your underwear will help bridge you to the web and keep a memory of what you've found. Your underwear will naturally be able to cope with RSS feeds, allow you to "tag" content, download podcasts, turn voice dictation into blog posts and ensure that you have your mojo wherever you go.

In fact, a play on the wearing/wherever idea will likely form the product name: Google Wearevers: Wear your info, wherever you go.

Remember, it's not that you'll be using your underwear as a direct interface. Instead, they are a combined conduit/memory dump for info. You'll access information store in them -- and connect to the web through them -- via whatever electronic devices are handy. But naturally, Google-Yahoo will have a range of wearable electronics they'll hope people prefer to use.

Want to discuss? Join our forum thread on the topic. Also see our compilation of search stories issued on this special day.


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