AOL has made some waves this year that have mostly centered on the people that are coming on board rather than services that will turn the companies fortunes to the plus side. Tim Armstrong has come over from Google and injected a sense of purpose and urgency (one would guess) as the unit of Time Warner speeds towards its spin off which occur later this year.
As further evidence that Armstrong is trying to get the right people on the bus he has hired Brad Garlinghouse to head up the Internet and Mobile Communications operations of AOL’s business. According to Om Malik of GigaOm, Garlinghouse will have some pretty serious responsibilities especially when one considers that this is the once might AOL being talked about here.
Brad Garlinghouse, formerly a senior vice president at Yahoo, is joining AOL as its president of Internet and Mobile Communications, which includes AOL’s e-mail and instant messaging. He will be heading up AOL’s Silicon Valley operations in Mountain View and will be responsible for AOL Ventures in California.
It doesn’t take much to connect the dots regarding Garlinghouse’s responsibilities to see that acquisition will be part of this plan to move AOL back into the realm of relevance. Garlinghouse certainly has the pedigree including his now famous “Peanut Butter Manifesto” that hit the Wall Street Journal back in 2006 which revealed some of the ills that still impact Yahoo’s business today.
Garlinghouse pointed out that with the growing popularity of services such as Twitter and Facebook, the entire communications arena is ripe for disruption. AOL has an opportunity to capitalize on that disruption. The company is going to either partner with or acquire startups in order to make over its communications business and capitalize on this disruption, he said.
Garlinghouse’s past also includes working at Internet telephony start-up DialPad which eventually produced the founders of Grand Central. Grand Central is now more well known as Google Voice.
So the Internet space keeps looking more and more like the sports world in my opinion. There are some teams / companies that can afford to sign the high dollar, high profile players / employees. It makes for interesting reading and a lot of press recognition but the results will have to speak for the success or failure of the venture. All one needs to do is look at how many times a sports team has spent a fortune to have the names on the roster but produce more frustration than wins (note of transparency here: I am a New York Mets fan so I know what I am talking about here).
Hopefully, AOL does bounce back and create a more competitive environment to keep the other big guys in the Internet space on their toes. If it doesn’t then the investors will decide whether AOL has an extended time to live or just more time to make headlines.