So is it really a big deal?

A Newsnight journalist rang me on Friday evening, just after we’d arrived in deepest Suffolk, to see if I’d be interested in coming on the programme to talk about the Microsoft-Yahoo deal. I declined gracefully on the grounds that (a) I like being in deepest Suffolk, and (b) I wasn’t sure the story was such a big deal anyway. Now, it looks as though I’m not alone in thinking that. Here’s John Markoff of the NYT on the subject:

SAN FRANCISCO — In moving to buy Yahoo, Microsoft may be firing the final shot of yesterday’s war.

That one was over Internet search advertising, a booming category in which both Microsoft and Yahoo were humble and distant also-rans behind Google.

Microsoft may see Yahoo as its last best chance to catch up. But for all its size and ambition, the bid has not been greeted with enthusiasm. That may be because Silicon Valley favors bottom-up innovation instead of growth by acquisition. The region’s investment money and brain power are tuned to start-ups that can anticipate the next big thing rather than chase the last one.

And what will touch off the next battle? Maybe it will be a low-power microprocessor, code-named Silverthorne, that Intel plans to announce Monday. It is designed for a new wave of hand-held wireless devices that Silicon Valley hopes will touch off the next wave of software innovation.

Or maybe it will be something else entirely.

No one really knows, of course, but gambling on the future is the essence of Silicon Valley. Everyone chases the next big thing, knowing it could very well be the wrong thing. And those who guess wrong risk their survival….

Update: Newsnight ran a piece with Charles Arthur and Robert Scoble. See it on YouTube here.

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