Posted February 24, 2009 12:16 pm by with 13 comments

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*pfffoooo!* Pardon the dust, folks. Just have to clean off this old story. . . . There. So, it looks like Steve Ballmer is still—still—interested in buying Yahoo search. Just one short year (plus three weeks) after an initial offer to buy out the company, and all the drama that followed, Ballmer is still pining away—and his desire is apparently completely unrequited.

Last November, Ballmer was saying purchasing the search portion of Yahoo would be “interesting.” This week, he’s “very interested in getting some kind of deal going in search still,” according to CNBC, and without them “Microsoft has no search strategy to speak of” (ouch!). Or, as we put it last month:

Microsoft just cut 5000 jobs and missed your Wall Street estimates. What are they going to do now? If you guessed they’re going to Disney World, you’re wrong. No, according to Steve Ballmer, they’re looking to drop some big bucks on Yahoo search.

No wonder he’s still asking for Yahoo’s hand—or at least that of its search business, saying he wants to “somehow get together and find out how to provide more competition” to Google, as the NYT reports. Of course, every time he says the word Yahoo, YHOO’s heart stock has a fit of palpitations to the tune of a 5% jump.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, however, has been far less stirred, much to the confusion and consternation of Ballmer and analysts alike. As CNBC puts it, the “lack of progress” is “surprising,” and Microsoft has been “rebuffed” and “ignored” since Bartz came in as chief of Yahoo. “It is just stunning to these people that nothing has been done . . . and yet Yahoo continues to circle the wagons, wanting to go it alone.”

Surprise, surprise—Yahoo doesn’t want to tie itself to a company that’s now admitting Apple is stealing its lunch, laying off people left and right . . . oh, wait, I guess that’s no better than Yahoo’s situation anyway.

But I think Jane Austen put the real reason that Ballmer and other analysts are “stunned” that Carol Bartz might want to keep the company she just took over all in one piece:

It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should refuse an offer of marriage.

What do you think—is Carol Bartz waiting for Yahoo’s price to go up into a reasonable range with all of Ballmer’s talk, or does she want to hang onto the search business for good?

  • The story that never dies! 😉

    Really the damage of turning down MSFT’s advances has been done. Nobody expects it to happen now, so Bartz is probably smart to bide her time and until the conditions are more favorable to Yahoo.

  • anothe bedtime story

  • Ballmer and everyone else needs to let this go. Microsoft has already outstripped Yahoo! in organic search. This is really about Yahoo!’s advertising revenues and Microsoft has the resources to build out its own advertising revenues.

    Ballmer needs to focus on Microsoft, not on Yahoo!.

    Michael Martinez’s last blog post..Secrets of how to escape the link building trap now

  • Jordan McCollum

    @Michael—Agree. Obsessing over buying Yahoo seems like it’s keeping him (and thus the company?) from moving on on its own, as Yahoo seems to be trying to do. Maybe Ballmer needs some grief counseling?

  • I wonder what innovation if any is going on at Microsoft around search? If they are always looking to buy Yahoo and its shrinking piece of the search pie then they must have given up on building a better mousetrap that could compete against Googlesaurus Rex.

    Imagine if this happened and Microhoo! search is birthed. Get out the clean up crews because that looks like it would be a train wreck of monumental proportions.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing and SMB’s Are Just Getting Acquainted

  • “Microsoft has already outstripped Yahoo! in organic search.”

    Everything I’m seeing shows MSN doing barely over a quarter of what Yahoo is doing, and I’d wager the lion’s share of whatever MSN does have is due to default homepage settings on new computers that people just haven’t changed yet. Why would they so desperately want to acquire Yahoo if that was the case?

    I still feel like the shareholders of Yahoo who so desperately want this have no clue what kind of wreck Microsoft will make out of Yahoo. The largest purveyor of operating systems and software in the world for decades now has not been able to come close to dominating the search market, server market or really anything internet related at all. Why in god’s name do they think Microsoft taking the helms of Yahoo will result in anything but a faster path to total collapse?

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Mark Gormley Is The Answer

  • Jordan McCollum

    @Terry—I think when Michael said outstripped, he meant in quality rather than market share

  • Yikes, it’s been over a year? That went by fast…..

    There will be a MSN/Yahoo transaction of some sort this year (either a sale, JV, or partnership of some sort) related to the search assets.

  • I wasn’t aware that “outstripped” was a technical and not a business term. Either way quality doesn’t relate to market share? Considering that the majority of computers sold on this planet default you to MSN Search, and an overwhelming majority (a near totality) actively retreat away from that product to me says the offering is of poor quality. It’s free, for goodness sakes, and people STILL don’t want to use it. Heck, they even tried to bribe people to us it and it didn’t help them beat out competitors. To me that speaks volume to the question of quality.

    Besides, I find the idea that MSN search is somehow superior from a technological or usability standpoint to be completely laughable, and you would be hard pressed to find many people who would refute that. I’d say that even Ballmer has all but said as much, considering that he is frantically pursuing Yahoo, specifically stating the acquisition of their search technology as the reason.

    So I still wonder, if you own shares of a company, why do you think that company being owned by someone who does not have the technical or business know-how to do absolutely anything in that market sound like a winning proposition to you? All they want is the “idea” of someone with cash buying the company, their stocks blip upwards for a brief moment, they dump it and run. Huh…. sounds a lot like the kind of behavior that has put our country in the economic ruins it’s in now. I for one find it admirable that an American born company like Yahoo! is sticking to what business is truly about, working to provide a service to customers, NOT serve as a yearly bonus to shareholders.

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Mark Gormley Is The Answer

  • Did you just casually quote Jane Austen in your post about Microsoft and Yahoo?

    You’re awesome, Jordan. 🙂

  • According to both Quantcast and Compete, more people use Microsoft search than use Yahoo! search. It’s not surprising to find people in the SEO community don’t see that in their referrals — they’ve wasted the last two years laughing at Microsoft rather than learning how to optimize for Microsoft search.

    Michael Martinez’s last blog post..Duplicate content for SEO and SEO for duplicate content

  • Shubie

    “man” has nothing to do with it.

  • In regards to Quantcast and Compete numbers, you don’t think having MSN Search set as the default homepage for 90% or more of all computers sold has some bearing on those numbers? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people load up Explorer, have MSN pop up and then type in The vast amount of web users out there are not tech savvy enough (or motivated) to go into web settings and change their default homepage. They may not even know they can!

    I think I will trust my paid search impression numbers which tells me definitively the ratio of how many people are actually searching the same terms over a given time frame, rather than a sample size of how many people visited a domain. Those numbers do and always have put MSN squarely in the 3rd place bracket for amount of users.

    Again, I ask though: If MSN is so flush with users and have such a better product, then why is Ballmer himself saying their future in search hinges on acquiring Yahoo? The truth is they aren’t, and they don’t.

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Mark Gormley Is The Answer