Apparently Marissa Mayer wants everyone at Yahoo to use an iPhone and she may be willing to spend some of Yahoo’s cash to buy everyone in the company an iPhone if that’s what it takes. The move would be unusual on a couple of different fronts and it would buck some of the trends popular in the Internet and technology industries as well as in mainstream business. The biggest question isn’t what this means for Yahoo – it’s what will consumers and the industry think about her an Yahoo if she does
As Business Insider points out, the possible move isn’t too surprising to many technology industry insiders. Mayer was known to use an iPhone even we she worked at Google. But there’s a difference between be an executive that prefers an iPhone and being one that dictates that the entire staff of a company must also use one.
If the reports are true and this is Mayer’s plan, it bucks the consumerization and bring your own device trends that have become popular across every industry including tech companies. That isn’t alone enough to say that this is a bad idea, but it definitely warrants a few raised eyebrows.
Lets take a look at the advantages to standardizing Yahoo around the iPhone.
First up, it ensures modern technology use with a pretty easy to manage support system. IT only needs to support one mobile platform and that platform. That platform offers predictable upgrades and patches and it only runs on handful of variations in device hardware. From an IT and support perspective, that’s a huge potential cost saver.
It also allows Yahoo to identify itself with Apple and iOS. That could be a marketing goldmine with an angle like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Whether or not Apple would support or even allow that type of marketing is, of course, an open question.
It builds morale. If Mayer waits until the iPhone 5 is released she’ll probably earn a lot of political capital if she approves Yahoo buying every employee the newest iPhone on the market. She stands to earn even more if she decides Yahoo should pay part of the monthly bill for LTE data service for employees.
It demonstrates that she’s willing to make bold decisions. There are any number of ways that she could do that, but standardizing on the iPhone is one that has limited potential for Wall Street backlash. At worst she looks like a hardcore Apple fan. That’s better than blazing a trail of massive acquisitions or restructuring that might come back to haunt her.
If she directs Yahoo developers to create a range of internal iOS apps that leverage social and gamification techniques, the iPhone as a standard could encourage a sense of community and good-natured competition between employees.
There are also some major downsides.
Mayer and Yahoo could be accused of being a pawn in Apple’s pocket or even on a secret payroll to support iOS and not Android. The move could also be considered anti-competitive and seen as giving Apple and iOS favoritism over Android, RIM’s BlackBerry/Touch Pad/BlackBerry 10 lineup, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 (along with Windows 8 and Windows RT devices).
It could lead to the perception that Yahoo doesn’t have the ability or desire to compete across all major platforms.
It could be seen as an absurd corporate extravagance to invest so much money in supplying iPhones when workers are willing to buy their own devices for use in the office.
The ultimate point, however, is that it really doesn’t matter whether Mayer is insistent on making Yahoo and iOS-first or iOS-only company. It doesn’t matter if standardizing on the iPhone is good fiscal policy or provides tangible mobile security and management benefits. It doesn’t even matter what impact the decision has on Yahoo’s mobile development strategy. In the end, such a move will be judged good or bad (or both) by a lot of technology pundits and columnists and consumers who have no real insight into the decision or its immediate or near-term impact on Yahoo as a company.