Bill Gates Wants Yahoo’s People. The Feeling isn’t Mutual.

This is the funniest thing I’ve heard all week.

Bill Gates is willing to pay a lot for engineering talent.

Asked what makes Yahoo worth more than $40 billion, Gates pointed not to the company’s products, its huge base of advertisers, or its market share, but rather to Yahoo’s engineers. Those people, he said, are what Microsoft needs to go after Google.

In an interview after his speech at Stanford University, Gates said that it turns out it takes a lot of manpower to build tools for advertisers, mobile, and video products as well as improving its core search algorithm and building an infrastructure for cloud computing. “The amount of computer science it is taking to do that is phenomenal,” he said. “As you get more scale of engineering you can just pursue that agenda more rapidly. Yes, the advertisers and the number of end users is good, but we’d put the people and the engineering as the key thing.”

Bill, what the Hell are you talking about? Yahoo employees hate your guts! No matter how great their engineers are, they just won’t work for you!

“Yahoo has always considered itself a bit of an upstart,” says a former Yahoo employee who asked to remain anonymous. “Most Yahoo employees will feel that, A., we lost, and B., there is no way in hell that I am going to work for Microsoft.”

Even if Microsoft buys Yahoo, Yahoo’s best engineers could follow the well-respected Brad Horowitz to Google. In a cruel twist of fate, Google could end up getting the very engineers Bill wanted out of the purchase. Ballmer could end up needing a lot more chairs.

After watching this clip from Pirates of Silicon Valley, it occurs to me that Bill is probably lying about his motivations. He really wants Yahoo for its advertisers and users. All his talk about valuing Yahoo’s engineers is just a ploy to lower resistance to a merger.

Either way, it won’t work. Genuine or fake, Bill’s lust for Yahoo’s people is not mutual.

Yahoo VP Leaves for Google as Layoffs Rage

Bradley Horowitz

I had the pleasure of listening to then-Yahoo Vice President for Product Strategy Bradley Horowitz speak at Renaissance Makati City Hotel last year. He sounded like an incredibly smart guy, successfully answering a sticky question from yours truly. That’s why I’m not surprised Google pirated him.

He will be working with Joe Kraus, director of product management and head of Google’s OpenSocial initiative, although we do not yet know his exact role.

This is a blow for Yahoo. Most new products (at least the fun stuff) goes through his group, and he is often the face of Yahoo at industry events. He is universally liked and respected, certainly outside of Yahoo and, as far as I can tell, within.

Bradley joined Yahoo in May 2004 as Director of Multimedia Search, and later worked on Yahoo Desktop Search and the Yahoo Toolbar. He was also key in getting the Flickr acquisition done.

Horowitz jumps to Google as layoffs rage across Yahoo. Microsoft has been losing talent to Google for years; seems even buying Yahoo won’t stop the bleeding.

(Photo by Eirik Solheim. BY-NC-SA.)