Bartz's Big Weakness: Hubris

Last Updated Jul 22, 2009 11:32 PM EDT

Earlier I posted about what might be Yahoo's big mistake: putting itself before its customers. But news brings a matched observation for company CEO Carol Bartz: hubris.

In Yahoo's earning call on Tuesday, an analyst asked Bartz for her opinion of Microsoft's Bing search engine. Here's her answer:

I think actually Bing is a good product. It actually extends sort of the experimentation around search and how people use it instead of just thinking like a standard blue link. I think they have done a good job. Unfortunately it is only a month into it so it is pretty hard to understand whether it is just curiosity driving what is happening or they are actually going to gain share. I think Microsoft should be given kudos for Bing. I think they have done a nice job. Respect is quite a change from saying, as she did last month, "We'd be better off if we had never heard the word Microsoft," regarding a potential partnership.
That was pure bravado, considering that the business still languishes. Perhaps the change in mind had to do with a change in numbers. Last month, Bartz effectively wrote off Bing:
"I don't know if Bing means a whole lot to Yahoo. I think people will go to Bing because they are curious. I think they will get some uplift, but people will keep their same habits."
This month we get word that Microsoft has shown some definite movement in search market share, and suddenly that deal Yahoo would have been better off without appears to be on the fast track again. That little slip of the tongue must have provided an awkward moment or two.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.