Reshuffling Deckhands on the S.S. Yahoo!

The worst-kept secret in Silicon Valley -- Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) corporate realignment -- finally went public yesterday. The rate at which executives were leaving in droves this month hinted that the race for the remaining lifeboats was on. What becomes of those still on the S.S. Yahoo!?

Yahoo! is streamlining the features-creation process by establishing three new teams that will report directly to President Sue Decker. Cynics will realize that there are just old Yahoo! faces in new Yahoo! positions, but giving Decker a little power appears to be a good thing.

This is her chance to prove her worth. A year ago, she was a rock star. Warren Buffett, obviously no slouch at identifying talent, tapped Decker as a new board member at Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) . She would have probably followed Terry Semel as CEO last year, if co-founder Jerry Yang hadn't wanted a crack at the job first.

The creation of new groups and internal promotions is obviously not enough to get Mr. Market excited. He's been burned by the same cast before. However, it bears pointing out that one of the new subsidiaries will be the Cloud Computing & Data Infrastructure Group.

By most accounts, Yahoo! is late to the cloud-computing game. It's no salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) , whose entire model revolves around delivering enterprise-software solutions from a central server. Companies such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and publishing-software giant Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) have been feverishly rolling out Web-based clones of their popular applications. Even the mighty Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) realized that it couldn't enter this market alone, so it acquired online word-processing specialist Writely two years ago as a key component of its eventual Google Docs initiative.

Isn't Yahoo! simply late to the buzzword, then? Not so fast. One of Decker's most inspirational moments came last summer, when she referred to Yahoo! Mail -- with 250 million accounts, and growing, at the time -- as a "dormant social network" waiting for its wakeup call.

With Yahoo! being the leader in free Web-based email, she's right. And when you get down to the very elements of cloud computing, isn't Web-based email a kissing cousin of the PC-stored productivity software currently migrating online? Yahoo! isn't late to the cloud-computing party. It arrived unfashionably early.

Naturally, it will take a few big steps to catch up with the pack. However, when it comes to productivity software such as word processing and spreadsheets, it certainly helps that Yahoo! Mail is an intermediary of file exchanges already. Taking bolder steps into enterprise applications -- and monetizing cloud computing -- won't be as easy, but at least Yahoo! is sharp enough to eventually spot the trends.

Other survival-guide reading:

Microsoft and Berkshire are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Berkshire is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes that every cloud-computing initiative has a silver lining. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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