Kara Swisher

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Kara Visits Tellme (aka A Little Bit of Microsoft in Silicon Valley)!


Earlier this week, I jokingly said Tellme Founder Mike McCue displayed “the cheeriness of someone with acute Stockholm syndrome and $800 million in Microsoft money,” after he was quoted in an Associated Press story about what life was like after a takeover by the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

“We are pretty much doing everything we were doing before–just a lot more of it,” said McCue about Microsoft (MSFT) ownership of Tellme, a message squarely aimed at Yahoo (YHOO) CEO and Founder Jerry Yang, who has thus far refused Microsoft’s unsolicited advances.

That prompted the jovial McCue–whom I have know since he was a major tech exec at Netscape, the best known Silicon Valley victim of Microsoft’s aggression–to send me an email inviting me down to Tellme’s HQ in Mountain View, Calif. “I’m pretty sure our captors will allow you to film,” he added.

Well, Patty Hearst of Silicon Valley, you don’t have to ask me twice with an offer like that!

Thus, I headed to Tellme yesterday to make a video at the company, which specializes in voice-controlled technologies and directory-assistance services. When it was sold to Microsoft a little less than a year ago, Tellme was its largest acquisition in Silicon Valley until the recent Yahoo offer that is currently valued at about $40 billion.

Since then, McCue has remained on as Tellme’s general manager and the company still operates as an independent subsidiary in the same funky offices by the CalTrain tracks that I visited eight years ago. It now has 330 employees there.

Here is my video of my visit to its offices and the always sharp McCue talking about living la vida Microsoft at Tellme and about the Yahoo bid (and here is another post and video in which he talks about trends in the voice-automated services business):

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle