There was a time when the personal computer was a novel tool, and we all wondered how it might shape the business we do. The merger between Microsoft and Yahoo! may signal that the real benefit of personal computing is coming of age — prioritized information. Yahoo is, of course, a search engine, which responds to the inquiries of users with lists of resources, but like it’s counterparts, Yahoo! also offers customizable home pages, access to calendaring, mail and other communications. With each of these services, the user is able to express interest and have information automatically searched and presented to them for consumption on a schedule of the user’s preference. Integrating this ability with a “desktop” offers near limitless potential for information on demand. When I was a kid, we used to talk about the future as the “information age”. In case we hadn’t noticed it’s here.
This merger represents one more step in an evolution toward information as the commodity of interest instead of hardware or the tools that make the hardware work. For agribusiness the parallels are fairly clear. The value delivered in the farm equipment business is no longer the machinery, or the mechanisms that make it steer more easily or more accurately. The “product” that’s most interesting, most intriguing, most innovative, is the information that coordinates with the steering, or the measurements that show on the instrument panel. Even more important to the farmer is what those measurements, information, allow them to do! Consumers expect (and are sometimes willing to pay for) more information about their food, the distance it travels, the way it was raised. Farmers desire more information to make good management and production decisions. Input firms want more information about the farmer’s they work with and about the markets from which they get raw materials. Processors, banks, and even universities, have a greater focus on information and its value than at any time in history.
On the surface, this is just a merger of two well known brands, but this acquisition may signal something deeper.