Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

MicroHoo: Stop Them Before They Publicly Negotiate Again!

microhoo

Oh dear, one endless, screwed-up global airline ride without Internet connectivity and when I finally manage to get online (looking right at the Spanish Steps in Rome. Sweeeeet!), BoomTown finds that a new round o’ MicroHoo is apparently on again.

(In the immortal words of Michael Corleone–see video below–in the otherwise awful “Godfather: Part III”: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”)

Except, judging from exactly how loud the loudmouthed chatter from a trio of Microsoft execs has become–the latest being COO Kevin Turner–it’s actually not.

Because if there were real and substantial talks going on right now between Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) about a new deal to partner, of course, you likely would not hear a peep from them.

Nonetheless, Turner is the third exec from the software giant to mention that Microsoft would love to play let’s-make-a-deal with Yahoo–not to necessarily go back and swallow it whole, a deal that Yahoo would now do in a New York minute, but related to its search assets.

In an interview with the Times of London, referencing new CEO Carol Bartz:

“We’ve certainly made her aware and the Yahoo! board aware that if they are ever interested in an opportunity to partner with them on search, we’d like to sit down and at least have the conversation. It has to make economic sense to both parties.”

Turner’s words come after similar sentiments were recently expressed by both Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell and the very-on-the-topic CEO Steve Ballmer.

We’ve seen this public tactic before, of course–actually, ever since Ballmer’s ill-fated attempt to take over Yahoo ended badly. Since then, he and others at Microsoft have not failed to either insult Yahoo’s prospects or say how very much it would like to do a deal with Yahoo.

The recent carrot approach, of course, is because Microsoft is now facing three important challenges.

First, for now, it looks like Yahoo’s search share seems to have stabilized and even improved, after years of decline.

Second, for all its efforts at hiring top search guns, spending heavily and generally declaring war on market leader Google (GOOG), Microsoft’s share has remained puny and static.

And third, it is facing a much different kind of Yahoo leader, who–while not necessarily as Web savvy as she should be–is not someone who is likely to be rolled or rattled as easily as former CEO Jerry Yang.

Because, as Bartz recently quipped–this woman likes to throw out the biz bromides more than Warren Buffett–at the Morgan Stanley Technology conference:

“I said this to Mr. Ballmer, I will not negotiate with you and 30,000 of my closest friends. I will negotiate privately….If something happens, you will know about it then.”

Still, despite Bartz’s cool demeanor, she and Ballmer will surely soon–if they have not already, that is–be meeting in some “secret” airplane hangar or other remote place dealmakers like to reconnoiter.

(Here’s a we-have-a-lot-in-common opening chit-chat topic: How snarky/rude/pushy you both think bloggers like me are!)

Because in order to get some traction on Google in the search arena, Microsoft has little choice–except perhaps making a big, sloppy bid for Facebook or Twitter–but to find a way to partner with Yahoo.

Yahoo too. As much as Bartz has been bragging that she has tons of leverage (she both does and she doesn’t), she also needs a powerful and rich friend in the years ahead in the search game, which will get uglier and more expensive as growth slows and massive innovation is needed.

Already, reports of that slowdown–spurred by the economic crisis–are here. It is in these down times that doing a deal, to get ready for the inevitable revival, seem most fortuitous.

That is, if everyone can stop talking and start, well, talking.

Until then, here’s the great Al Pacino, delivering the classic line:


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald