Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

What the (Larry) Heck Is Happening to Yahoo Search? Another Defection to Microsoft, That's What!

It seems that since Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is playing it coy about whether she wants to do a massive search deal with Microsoft or not, the software giant is just going to keep hiring her search tech team out from under her.

Today, Microsoft (MSFT) said it had hired Larry Heck, VP of search & advertising sciences at Yahoo Labs, who will work in its online unit.

It’s like the rapture, except geekier.

Said a Microsoft spokeswoman: “We are happy to confirm that Larry Heck has accepted a job at Microsoft. He will be working for Satya Nadella, SVP, research and development, online services division, and he will start in a few weeks time. We look forward to welcoming him to the team.”

[UPDATE: Yahoo sources said Heck was laid off in December, so it is not quite the daring raid that it seems.]

Nonetheless, it is the third big hire from Yahoo’s search tech team by Microsoft. The first was Sean Suchter, followed by Qi Lu, who now heads Microsoft online services team.

Lu is a big draw for search engineers and was close to Heck, and sources said there are several other Yahoo tech execs likely to move too.

The boatloads of money Microsoft has been spending in the arena to catch leader Google is certainly a draw. Microsoft is No. 3 behind both Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO).

In addition, MSN recently nabbed Yahoo media head Scott Moore to run its U.S. programming, along with Yahoo marketing exec Eric Hadley.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik