From her moment signing on as CEO, to the moment she informed her staff of her dismissal via an iPad, mobile has been a persistent force during Bartz’s tenure at Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). And not always for the best: the company has found it a challenge to find its place in the mobile world under Bartz.
While its search rivals Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) have gone full-force into extending R&D efforts into mobile — and becoming dominant players in the process in areas like mobile operating systems, extending their online products into smartphone controllers — Yahoo has started and stopped (mostly stopped) a number of initiatives that has if anything undermined its credibility in the sector.
Livestand, the company’s digital newsstand for tablets, was due to launch sometime in the first half of this year, but appears still to be a work in progress. Even AOL (NYSE: AOL), more beleaguered than Yahoo, managed to launch its iPad Editions. (Yes, that was current former Yahoo Brad Garlinghouse of pre-Bartz Peanut Butter Manifesto fame, now AOL president of consumer applications, who tweeted: “ding dong the witch is dead” when the Bartz news broke.)
Meanwhile, in mobile advertising, where the company should have been singing, it’s been way out of tune. Stats from IDC show that Yahoo has been losing market share in mobile advertising, even as the market has been booming. Efforts to launch new display ad formats and more localized content may have given a boost to its ad business but the benefits would have only been seen on its own properties, rather than the long tail of wider internet content.
It didn’t help, either, that of the many executives that have left Yahoo under Bartz, several were in mobile — one notable example was Michael Shim, the mobile VP who left for Groupon at the beginning of the year. And David Ko, appointed by Bartz to head mobile in her first major reorg, left for Zynga and a potentially big payoff last year despite an expanded role that made him one of the top execs at Yahoo.
The Yahoo board announced tonight that a new leadership council made up of interim CEO Tim Morse and other top execs will start a strategic review. Chairman Roy Bostock promised a commitment “to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Yahoo! on a trajectory for growth and innovation and deliver value to shareholders.” The board also started a new CEO search. Unless each has a strong emphasis on mobile, Yahoo will only slip further behind.
Update: Macquarie’s Ben Schachter ended his client note about the ouster with this:
The bottom line is that while Carol Bartz’s removal is a positive for Yahoo, this remains a company with significant structural problems — not least among them, the ability to find its place in a world that is increasingly accessing the Internet through mobile devices. The fact that Bartz’s final sentence in her final email to Yahoo employees reads, “Sent from my iPad” should not be lost on anyone.