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Tech World Star Marissa Mayer To Head Yahoo

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in Silicon Valley, the buzz is the latest hire by Yahoo. Marissa Mayer is the new CEO. Yahoo lured the 37-year-old away from Google, were she was one of that company's most prominent executives. She studied computer science at Stanford, was hired on as employee number 20 at Google, and as NPR's Steve Henn reports, she is something of a rock star in the tech world.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: For years the rap on Yahoo has been: this company lacks focus.

SHAR VANBOSKIRK: Yahoo! has Yahoo Maps, Yahoo movies, Yahoo TV, Yahoo sports, Yahoo travel.

HENN: Shar VanBoskirk is an Internet analyst at Forrester Research. She say it hasn't helped that Marissa Mayer will be Yahoo's 6th CEO in just four years.

VANBOSKIRK: There's no rhyme or reason into what businesses they're going into. So my advice to Yahoo would be to streamline some of this stuff and focus on the few particular places where Yahoo can be the best in the world.

HENN: VanBoskirk was hoping for a CEO with a clearly articulated and focused vision for Yahoo's future. And she says she was disappointed by this choice. Marissa Mayer's background is in product development. She's done lots of different stuff. She helped create the look and feel of Google's now iconic search page. She helped launch Gmail. And back in 2009, Charlie Rose asked her why she though Yahoo was struggling.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED TV SHOW, "CHARLIE ROSE")

HENN: So Mayer's first mission might be to try and make Yahoo cool again - a place were great people actually want to come to work. And this is something Mayer may be uniquely well suited to do. She's well-known in Silicon Valley. She's mentored hundreds of former Google executives.

In recent years, Yahoo and Microsoft have been close allies in the search war against Google. Now, with Marissa Mayer in charge, the tech world will be watching to see if Yahoo could switch sides.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: July 17, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of the headline for this story incorrectly said Marissa Mayer will be head of Google.
Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.