June 18, 2006 10:09 pm

Interview transcript: Meg Whitman, Ebay

The following is an edited transcript of the FT interview with Meg Whitman, Ebay chief executive

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How is ecommerce changing? People often say is it’s becoming mature, and that is why we see all these overlaps, with companies moving onto each other’s turf.

Meg Whitman:

One perspective I would give you is that after the stock market bust, when all the Internet market caps collapsed, people did, in fact, write off the Internet to some extent. But if you actually look at the fundamental, underlying metrics throughout that period, they were very strong. When you look at the number of users coming on, broadband penetration, number of people experimenting with ecommerce and buying more online.

It was fascinating, because the external markets were saying, “This is a disaster”. And yet, I was looking at the numbers every month saying, “Nothing’s happened to the actual people who are doing things on the Net”. And so ecommerce continued to grow dramatically throughout that period. And it continues to grow relatively fast. The numbers are hard to get, but I believe worldwide it’s probably in the 30 percent range - which for most big businesses is a really healthy growth rate. I think more and more people are coming online, more and more people are buying online, and I would say, I think, that ecommerce in some ways - and in the most developed countries like the UK, Germany, France, Italy, the United States, Canada, Korea - ecommerce has become quite mainstream.

So I continue to believe that ecommerce will have quite healthy growth rates for the foreseeable future. It won’t grow at 80, 90, 100 percent as it did, but I think there’s still a lot of opportunity because there is the inevitable trend, I think, of offline to online shopping.

Question:

Wall Street seems hung up on this idea that you’re mature - what is mature? How should people be thinking about maturity in the context of eBay?

Meg Whitman:

I think that we’re still a very young company. I think the growth rates will be slower than they were between 1997 and even 2001, but I think that’s to be expected. But I think we’re still a very high-growth company. We have three different businesses at different stages of their life cycle - Skype is a two-and-a-half-year-old, PayPal is a six-year-old and eBay is a ten-year-old. But, I think we have a lot of running room for a growth company. And I think what’s interesting, you know, is what does Wall Street regard as fast growth?

If it’s more than 50 to 60 percent, than I don’t think we’re going to probably grow at 50 to 60 percent. But I know that before I came to eBay, a 20 percent growth company, a 25 percent growth company was, you know... there’s only a handful of companies in the United States who grow that fast, or in the world who grow that fast. So, I would characterize us as a high-growth company.

Question:

Is it going to be painful period for you as you try and adjust the perception that you are a slower-growth company?

Meg Whitman:

I don’t think so. We hope to grow faster than that over the next couple of years, but we are an ever-bigger company; we’ll do between 5.7 and 5.9 billion this year. And I think we have managed the growth of the company and built the infrastructure to support growth, and I think it will be a normal transition.

As you get into those levels of growth, you begin to actually be able to get some leverage of the infrastructure that you’ve laid. We were, for the first five years of this company, chasing the growth, building the system fast enough just to stay ahead. And now, we should be able to leverage some of those infrastructure costs so that we will I think be able to, as we said in our Analyst Day, now increase our operating margin again.

Question:

Why are we seeing big Internet companies encroaching more on each other’s areas, and why are we seeing you, for instance, moving into in-season goods and classifieds and so on. Is that a sign of a maturing market?

Megan Whitman:

I think it’s a sign of thinking about our business definition and saying, “What we do in eBay is we connect buyers and sellers better than anyone else in the world”. It’s a very different business than Amazon’s core business, which is one to many. Ours, of course, is many to many. And I think we are the best in the world at connecting buyers and sellers.

So as we looked in our market, we said, “Hey, we’ve done a great job connecting buyers and sellers in an auction format”, in what we call the tail-ends of the Bell Curve; the used, the overstocked. But as we looked in the market, increasingly there were new in-season products showing up on eBay.

At first I was sort of stunned because eBay, core eBay isn’t actually optimized for new in-season. It’s an auction format, and the way most people sort once they find the list of things they’re interested in is by ending first or highest price. So we talked to our users. And at eBay, which has been true from 1998, our users are our best R&D lab.

And so we watched what they were doing, and we talked to our top buyers and they said, “You know, I would buy more on eBay. I love eBay. I would buy more if there was a new in-season, fixed price, shopping cart, kind of a traditional ecommerce opportunity on eBay because I love eBay”. So hence, the genesis of eBay Express.

And I think the way I would characterize this for you is it’s a bit of a continuum. That we have online classifieds as sort of the entry ecommerce opportunity, inspired by Craig’s List and now Kajiji and some of the companies around the world that we bought. You’ve got core eBay which is the tail-ends of the Curve; I would call it the long-tail market; eBay Express, which will still connect buyers and sellers - we won’t hold inventory, there won’t be any warehouses, it’s just connecting a different kind of buyer and a different kind of seller or a different kind of shopping occasion.

And then, Shopping.com, which is truly a big company, earliest convenience/commerce - classic ecommerce new in-season opportunity. So, we’ve created basically a segmented approach to connecting buyers and sellers. The common thread is connecting buyers and sellers.

Question:

You began as a transaction site, but now, as you say, you’re moving earlier into the process, connecting people, creating leads. Why are you going in that direction? Does that reflect something broader on the Internet.

Meg Whitman:

I think that there are a number of ecommerce monetization models. We’ve always had, on the core business, a listing fee, a final value fee, a transaction-based revenue model. But there are other ecommerce monetization models that have emerged. And classifieds - online classifieds - is exactly the same as offline classifieds. It’s a lead generation advertising based model, and that’s the way we will ultimately monetize Kajiji, in my view.

eBay Express will probably be some combination of ecommerce monetization methods, and then Shopping.com is a lead generation method. I think what we’ve seen as the Internet has grown up - there are alternative ecommerce monetization models, many of which are advertisement-based, including Google and Yahoo and others. So we want to have the tools, if you will, in our tool kit, to be able to pick the right monetization model for the right market segment in the right format.

Question:

So, you’re looking across all segments now of ecommerce, and therefore potentially all models.

Meg Whitman:

Yes, exactly. I mean, classifieds will always be a lead generation, probably advertising-based model. It will be almost impossible to do a transaction-based revenue model because of the classified model; we don’t actually know if people met and that the item was actually sold.

Question:

Where might you take that? You just announced a contextual advertising service. Are you eventually goning to build an ad network and compete with some of these other ad networks online?

Megan Whitman:

It’s not in the current plans. Largely the thing that we announced over the weekend, which was inspired by the German team who did it first, was actually a way to bring new buyers and new customers to eBay. Because let’s say you run Richard Waters’ FlyFishing.com; you know, if I can serve eBay ads that are relevant to you, that’s a way for you to monetize your site. But, and more importantly in some ways, is the new customers coming to eBay. It will allow us to create monetization opportunities for independent websites and then bring new customers to eBay.

Question:

But once you establish those relationships with independent websites, then it might be a natural channel to serve up other types of advertising.

Megan Whitman:

Yeah, I think in a certain way we want to introduce them to the full panoply of eBay offerings. We like to make sure they know we have eBay stores, you know, that we own a classified site. Gee, if they’re big enough and they are interested in ecommerce, you know, should they be participating in the core eBay marketplace, or Shopping.com.

So, one of the things we have always had from the beginning is very strong relationships with small merchants. When you think about it, it’s our power seller group, it’s the 1.3m people who make their living selling full- or part-time on eBay. And so this is just another way to embrace another group of small sellers to medium-sized sellers to bring them on to one of any number of eBay platforms.

So if you have a fly fishing site, we’re obviously not going to show bowling balls; we’ll show fly fishing gear.

Question:

Do you think of using that as a broader advertising network?

Meg Whitman:

I think it’s awfully early to tell. I mean, if we’re successful at driving new users to eBay through the huge breadth of product, then I think is a home run.

Question:

To go back to what’s happening in ecommerce. One thing we’re seeing is offline retailers becoming more competitive and more successful. How are you feeling that, and how does it make you look at the market and what your plans are?

Meg Whitman:

You know, I am actually surprised it’s taken as long as it has. Because in 1999, I think I’m on the record someplace saying that I though this notion of bricks and clicks was going to be a really compelling proposition. Because you can buy it online, but you can return it to the store. You could buy it online at two o’clock, drive down to the store and pick it up, and so I thought that actually - and they had brands, so they didn’t need to build brands - and so I thought for ten years that the bricks and clicks mall would be very powerful.

And I think we’re beginning to see the attraction with some of the big retailers now around the world. Tesco.com, in the UK, has done a remarkable job with their website. Look at Walmart.com, Gap.com, you know, they’re all getting better.

It’s taken a while, and I think they got slowed down in the dotcom bust. Right? Because I think some of them thought, “Okay, maybe this isn’t for real”. And as you know, this is an expensive game - to launch a website and develop a whole new skill set.

So I think they’re going to be a competitive factor in the market. And I actually think in some ways they will help the growth of ecommerce, because as the consumer has crossed the chasm, the average American knows Wal-Mart. And so maybe their first experience will be at Walmart.com, and then they’ll get confidence, and then they’ll find eBay and other places. So I think actually in some ways it will help to grow the market. I don’t know if it limits our potential.

Question:

Are there any markets or bits of the model that you think you’ll stay away from because the offline guys are turning up in force now? Are any of them becoming less attractive?

Meg Whitman:

You know, we will never - never is a strong word. I’ve learned never to say never. It would be highly unlikely if we were to ever enter the business where we were the merchant of record, or that we held inventory, or that we did the pick, pack and ship, or that we manage the inventory. That’s just not a business we know a lot about. That is directly competitive with a Walmart.com or Tesco.com or an Amazon.com. For the most part, most of Amazon’s business is merchant of record, the one to many.

So, I would say it would be highly unlikely for us to ever get out of our approach to the ecommerce of connecting buyers and sellers as opposed to being the merchant of record.

Question:

Could you see closer ties to offline retailers?

Meg Whitman:

Maybe through the Shopping.com platform, possibly through eBay Express where we create a venue that bigger retailers I think will find attractive. And big brands sell on eBay.com today. But mostly it’s the tail ends of the Bell Curve, it’s the overstock, obsolete, refurbished, repaired items. So, only inasmuch as we will have ties with them in the context of the platforms. Now that’s a little dissimilar from our PayPal strategy. Because the merchant services business at PayPal, we want to have every single online merchant from Wal-Mart to, you know Tiny.com having PayPal as the online payment standard.

Question:

Let’s get back to your model. It’s been an incredibly powerful model, for a long time. Is it running out of juice, particularly in some of the new markets in Asia that you’re moving into. What are you learning in those countries?

Meg Whitman:

I think Asia is different. I don’t like to use the word Asia, because China, Korea and Japan are three very different markets.

And I think there’s a couple of different characteristics. One is more emphasis on new in-season, very rapidly changing dynamics, more local competition than we’ve seen in other markets. So we’re adapting our market for those countries more than we did when we, for example, went to Europe.

Question:

So does that mean that the classic model, where your “take rate” is 6 or 7 per cnt, isn’t going to in some of these newer markets - because the value they see in eBay will be different?

Meg Whitman:

Well it certainly has happened in Korea. We have a very robust, terrific business in Korea. In China, there is monetization pressure because it is a very price-sensitive business, so the take rates are lower.

Whether they will be over the long term, I don’t know. I think we’ll have to see over time. The cost structure of doing business in China should ultimately be lower, because your staffing costs are less, your advertising costs are less, your product development costs are less. So it’s possible, but then the prices are less too. So it may be that the take rate does move towards the global average. It may also be that the take rate is perennial and lower. We’ll have to just see. And then our challenge will be, how do we get a cost structure that allows us to make money at a 3 pc rate versus the 7 pc rate.

Question:

Let’s talk about your assets, and how you fit in with other internet companies. How important is communication to you?

Meg Whitman:

I think it’s important, and we loved the Skype viral effect of how it had grown its user base - it looked a lot like eBay. You know, in the earliest days, [it had] even more rapid adoption. So it was very clear to me that something quite unique was going on at Skype - it was pioneering a whole new technology, but building a thriving ecosystem of users, developers, hardware manufacturers, chipset manufacturers.

And by the way, it had some really nice synergies with PayPal and eBay. In the case of eBay, [there is] communication synergy. And with PayPal, this whole notion of actually PayPal being the wallet on Skype, and every new Skype user getting a PayPal account and visa versa.

Question:

There is a lot of scepticism out there by your ability to monetize this voice traffic called Skype. Is there a risk that you just won’t be able to monetize this and if so, was the deal valid just on the sort of adding the communication function to eBay?

Megan Whitman:

Well I certainly hope we’re gonna be able to monetize it! This year, we’ve told the analyst community, [Skype] will be about a 200 million dollar business. So there’s actually real revenue here. And it’s only a two-and-a-half-year-old company, so from zero to 200 million in two-and-a-half years is really faster growth than eBay or PayPal.

Frankly we think of it as enabling the world’s conversations because it’s not only one to one, it’s one to many with Skypecast. It’s voicemail, its’ data, it’s SMS, ultimately it’s expressions.

If you have the largest ecosystem, then you will be the one who will actually figure out the long-term monetization model. And I think telephony will be a part of that. Skype and voicemail in what we do today, but also ecommerce applications, content applications; we will figure out how to monetize the largest user base on the Net.

And we already have some ideas; there’s already a number of trials in place. And the good news is we have a stream of revenues called telephony revenues that enable us to continue to grow quite fast while we’re testing and trying to figure out the new monetization models.

Question:

Going back to your assets then; so you’ve got Telephony, you’ve got payments; and you’ve got the brand and the listings on the community. So as you look beyond your existing platform, now you have the Yahoo deal: what are the core assets and how do you extend them and play them out across the Web?

Meg Whitman:

We have the number one ecommerce for franchise, the number one online payment standard, and the number one voice communications player in the world. I think we have three of the best brands on the Net. Maybe three of the top five brands on the Net are eBay brands.

And I think there’s two ways we grow the business and exploit those assets that we have. One is how to build great stand-alone businesses. So within ecommerce, how do we continue to grow eBay, but add classifieds, add eBay Express, add Shopping.com. Then, within PayPal, how do we obviously do on-eBay penetration but frankly the bigger opportunity is of course merchant services. Unfortunately, there is more ecommerce off eBay than on. At least for the moment.

And then, finally, how do you build a great Skype business. And then the magic is, what opportunities do various combinations of our two assets open up. And people can understand eBay and PayPal really well - and I’ll come on to the skepticism around Skype and eBay in a minute. But eBay and PayPal was one of the most remarkable combinations because they made each business stronger on their own, and then created a whole new opportunity called merchant services.

Because what happened with other payments companies is no one could get enough traction. There was the chicken and the egg problem. They couldn’t get enough people to take their payments product, and they couldn’t get enough buyers to want to pay with PayPal. Because eBay was the seed market, PayPal became the de facto payment standard on the biggest locus of small business in the world, and as a result was able to extend off that market place.

So there was huge synergies there. And we actually think that the reason it’s one of the all-time great acquisitions, even though at the time people about had a heart attack that we paid 1.5 billion for PayPal. I mean, I got creamed in the press. “The woman is crazy. I cannot believe she paid 1.5 billion dollars for this, you know, stupid little company.” I don’t know what percentage of our market count today is PayPal, but it’s a big chunk.

And so, that’s why we were so excited when we saw Skype because I said, you know what, there’s something here that will unlock the Skype business, and will enable each business to grow on its own.

So, people will understand as we deliver the results, and you know, I have great confidence that this was a smart thing to do. And I’ll tell you an interesting story: many people thought that the best fit for Skype was gonna be a Yahoo or a Google, who already had a communications suite.

I actually think Nicholas and Janus were very smart to sell their company to an ecommerce company. Because in the end, the monetization, I think, is going to be around ecommerce, not telephony. And guess who has the biggest ecommerce franchise in the world, that can accelerate the growth of Skype? So, we’ll see.

Question:

Eric Schmidt likes to say that there are only two things that matter on the Net: search and communication. Search is underlying a lot of what you do. Is search a core asset of yours, and is there a way you can stretch that beyond your platform?

Meg Whitman:

I would say that there’s five things that people do on the Net. They find, they buy, they pay, they share, and they look for entertainment and content. And all of those things are at the heart of what people do on the Net.

So yeah, people want to find stuff. But they also want to connect. They want to share. They want to understand - that’s the reason MySpace is so successful - it’s the reason eBay has been so successful. So, find, buy, pay, share, entertain.

We have a narrow version of find; product find. We don’t help you if you want to research Abraham Lincoln’s biography, but buy is what we have the largest market share of. Pay, we are, I think, on the verge of becoming the global online payment standard. Share, in a more narrow way than perhaps a Yahoo, or a Myspace, but we have a very important sharing franchise that’s called Skype, and it’s called eBay.

And then entertain and content, we don’t really have a content play per se, but eBay’s quite an entertaining venue. But I would say Yahoo is the leader in entertainment and content. You know, they’ve done a great job in music; I think they’ve done a great job in, you know, sports, weather, finance.

Question:

Are you always going to define “share and find” in relation to ecommerce?

Meg Whitman:

I think at the moment I am a big believer in focus. I think companies can only do a small number of things well. Over the past 50 years in the popular business press it’s been, you know, double down on the things you do well, find your core strengths, build on your core strengths. Anything that’s not core, it’s context and get rid of it or outsource it.

So I do - and there’s a hundred different ways to cut that - but I do think focus is an important thing. And the opportunity we have in front of us with marketplaces, payments and communications, I think is so enormous. But I don’t’ think there’s necessarily a reason to go try to create another global search company.

Question:

You’re defining core extremely broadly. It’s a pretty big core.

Meg Whitman:

It is a pretty big core. And, you know, that’s been a hallmark of eBay over the last ten years - expanding our vision, expanding the opportunity in a disciplined way that made sense for the management team to build a handle. There’s a difference between an idea and a business; you’ve got to have the idea, but you’ve got to actually get into practice and optimize it for consumers.

Question:

Is there scope for more partnership or even more consolidation between ecommerce companies? Because you’re all spending a huge amount of money right now to build particular assets.

Meg Whitman:

I think the most interesting thing about the last couple of years is this, you know, cooperation and competition. You know, we compete with Yahoo, and we now have a very big partnership with them. It’s a little different. I think in the old days, when I was growing up in business, you never did anything with a competitor. You know, when I was at Hasbro, we didn’t do a lot with Mattel.

When I was at Proctor & Gamble, we didn’t do much with Colgate. But it’s a different world. So we struck this very big deal with Yahoo, and then a week later they invested in our largest competitor in Korea. I don’t’ know - I think it’s sort of the New World Order, and I knew it was happening and it didn’t really bother me.

You know, Google is another example. Google is a very important part of our strategic alliances and we do a lot with them. But, you know, they’re also going to compete with us in a number of areas.

Question:

As you forge alliances, does it mean, for instance, that you’ll take more of your advertising off Google and put it on Yahoo?

Meg Whitman:

No, it doesn’t actually. It says how do we optimize traffic to eBay for our community of users. And Google is an important source of traffic for our users and for us, and we want to optimize that. At the same time we want to do a good job in fulfilling the relationship that we have with Yahoo.

Question:

Will your Yahoo alliance eventually extend beyond the US?

Meg Whitman:

We want to see - this is a new deal for us. And so we want to see what aspects of this are going to be the most powerful. We want to get PayPal completely integrated into Yahoo in the US, we want to get the ad network going on eBay in the US using, obviously, their ad network. We want to sort of understand the Click-to-Call business in the United States.

So, let’s walk before we run. Whenever you do things like this, you learn because we’re pioneering a whole new thing. And so let’s get the US organized, and then we’ll make a decision. There’s a lot of development resources that are going to be required on both Yahoo and eBay’s part to integrate PayPal as the Yahoo wallet. So, there are resource constraints and a “walk before you run” mentality, a little bit. I think that if it works, it will be as relevant outside the United States.

Question:

Is there an argument for more consolidation on the Internet?

Meg Whitman:

Hmm. There’s been a lot of speculation about this, and we have been a consolidator over the years. You know, we’ve bought other eBay-like trading communities around the world, we’ve acquired Skype, we acquired Shopping.com. So I think that there will be more consolidation. And I think particularly of smaller players. I think you’ll see that kind of thing, because there are companies now that have cool, really neat technology, but don’t have commercialization capability.

We always look at acquisitions if it furthers our strategic objectives and we think we can, you know, buy the company at a reasonable price. But probably, for the moment - and I’ve said this before - we’re pretty focused now on sort of maximizing the three business that we have. We have a lot of running room in all three. And we’ve got three of, I think, the best brands on the Net. Let’s just optimize those.

Question:

If we compare that with Google, which seems to be going off in all directions into all things, and using its one brand under there. That’s a different model.

Meg Whitman:

It’s a different strategy.

Question:

Do you look at it and think you should do something bigger, extend the brand?

Meg Whitman:

We’ve had a lot of debate internally about what the right brand strategy is. And interestingly, when we first bought PayPal, the first opportunity for PayPal was to imbed on eBay.com. And we actually talked about calling it “eBay Payments”. In fact, for a while on the website, it was called eBay Payments; we were a little confused.

We went round and round on this. And I think had we called it eBay Payments, it still would be as important a vehicle as it is today on eBay markets around the world. I don’t think we’d have a merchant services business. Because I’m not sure Dell.com would necessarily want eBay Payments as a payment module.

So, we decided that eBay stands for ecommerce, it stands for connecting buyers and sellers. PayPal stands for payments, and Skype stands for voice communications.

And so when the Skype acquisition came around, we didn’t even think about changing the Skype name to eBay Voice or PayPal Voice or anything. The priceless value of a brand that stands for something is huge. And I probably feel more strongly about this than many of my Internet CEO brethren, because I come from a marketing background. I was trained at Proctor & Gamble. And you’re always a product of some of your early business training.

I’m a big believer that brands are quick-drying cement. And you’re better off building behind that notion and reinforcing every single day what PayPal means, what Skype means, what eBay means. But it is a different strategy. Yahoo has branded everything Yahoo, Google has branded everything with Google or Gmail, or whatever.

Question:

Yahoo! Japan has built a very powerful model by combining a wide range of internet services under one roof: are there attractions to doing that?

Meg Whitman:

Yes. Masa [Son, who built Yahoo Japan] is smart. He’s smart. Because he said, “There’s a couple models I like in the United States; I like eBay, I like Yahoo, and I like AOL. I’ll do all of them”. But I think that game has largely played out in most markets. I think it would be a very difficult challenge today to say that you want that integrated model in virtually any country today.

Because you’ve already got brands that stand for those things. He was so smart, because he was the first to understand the power of the Internet in Japan. And he made this Yahoo acquisition, and he saw what was happening in the United States which was several years ahead of Japan. And he said, “I’ll take one of those, one of those, one of those” and put it all together when there was virtually no competition on the Internet. So he seized first-mover advantage in the best business models.

And then when he saw search happen, he said, “I’m gonna use my reach in Japan to own search”. But I just don’t know that there’s that much of an opportunity to do that in other places.

Question:

Your acquisitions suggest you think broad, multi-brand internet companies are possible.

Meg Whitman:

Yes. I think multi-brand full services Internet companies are an opportunity, but here’s the difference: he had first-mover advantage in a number of different [areas.] He got there early with some of the fundamental things.

Question:

You said it’ll take some time to pay off and you want people to just watch the results. How long are you going to be around - what sort of commitment are you making?

Meg Whitman:

I’m pretty well committed. When I took on Skype, I knew that this was going to be a multi-year commitment, and that I was taking the company into a place we’d never been before. And I am very committed. I love this company. And it is endlessly interesting.

Question:

Do you have a multi-year contract to match your multi-year strategy?

Meg Whitman:

We don’t have contracts at eBay. I’ve never had a contract. This was a bit of a surprise because at Disney, everyone had a contact. You were like the Junior Marketing Manager and you had a contact.

When I came to eBay, Pierre [Omidyar, eBay’s founder] was incredibly clear; we’re not having contracts for anyone. We’re not having severance agreements, we’re not having any of this.

It’s worked out thus far. I’ve always believed that if you want to get out of a contact you can. So I think it’s more about personal commitment.

Question:

So how many years are you committing for?

Meg Whitman:

I’ve done two things that I wished I hadn’t done. Back in 2001, I remember I said we’ll be 3 billion dollars in revenue in, I forget what year, 2005 - and for four years, I lived with that. And then early on, I think I said I would stay through when my son graduated from high school, and I’m not making any more prognostications.

Question:

He graduated, then?

Meg Whitman:

Yes, he graduated in June. And I’m still here. So I learned two very important lessons, which is “don’t make forward-looking statements”, because you will live with them.

Question:

I’ll ask you one forward-looking statement: can you foresee any big mergers amongst any Internet companies? Do you think people will be tempted to try?

Meg Whitman:

You know, it’s impossible to predict these things, right? I would not have been able to predict the Gillette P&G merger.

I think, you know, each of the big Internet companies now are quite focused on a strategy that’s quite differentiated from one another. Yes, there are overlaps we discussed and competition, but I think each of these major Internet companies feels quite strongly about where they’re headed, the vision in front of them, the opportunity. So I wouldn’t say that I see anything near-term.

Question:

But are some unstable elements - Microsoft, for instance, is ambitious. Could things like this change the dynamics of the market fairly quickly?

Meg Whitman:

It can, but I think in the near-term I sort of see at least the major Internet players kind of on their own path.

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