Kara Swisher

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Live From Redmond: Microsoft's Lu Hearts ’Hoo, Plus Business Guy Elop and Server Guy Muglia

Isn’t it ironic that Yahoo once employed–and for a very long time–top search techie Qi Lu and here he was on stage today at the Financial Analyst Meeting at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Wash., after having just scooped up that business for the software giant.

Lu, who is now president of the Online Services division at Microsoft (MSFT), was a key player in the deal that was announced yesterday between it and Yahoo (YHOO), under which Microsoft licensed Yahoo’s search technology for a decade.

Lu was not generous with the details, although he did say making the partnership work was his No. 2 priority after Microsoft’s own search business. No. 3 was being financially responsible.

Said Lu, in part: “First, search is our number–one priority…second, a big priority for us is implement the Yahoo partnership. It is a 10-year partnership. We’re absolutely committed in spirit, in everything we did to deliver the true economic values, consumer benefits, customer benefits for advertisers, publishers all around.”

Because of the scale it brings, Lu said that the deal has the potential to be lucrative, despite the fact that Wall Street thinks Yahoo sold out of its search technology too cheaply.

But he also tried to manage expectations. “And I keep telling my teams, we want to be brutally honest about where we are…and understand the hurdles we have to overcome,” said Lu.

Microsoft Business President Stephen Elop, who was on next, talked a lot about how Microsoft was dealing with the tough economy and its impact on the company’s software business.

He also gave updates about a range of its various products, including the upcoming Office 2010.

“Now, despite the difficult economic challenges, despite the end of a product cycle, what we believe, as evidenced by the strength of our annuity business, is that there’s incredible excitement out there in the market because of Office 2010,” said Elop. “So, at a time when we expect business productivity or business spending climate to improve, we are launching the most innovative wave of technology we have ever launched.”

Elop used the term “attach rate” to talk about the how users relate to Microsoft software, although I have often thought about how much I wanted to get a divorce from Microsoft Outlook.

After Elop, another business-type exec, Servers and Tools President Bob Muglia, who also had to deliver not-such-great news.

Said Muglia: “What we saw was that as the economy got soft, so did the customer buying, the business buying for servers, and starting around the middle of October into the end of our fiscal second quarter, and certainly through the entire part of our second fiscal half, this calendar year, we’ve seen a pretty dramatic decline in the server marketplace.”

And, after that, when he started talking annuity sales, virtualization and modular data centers–I’ll admit it–this is precisely the moment when I went out for an emergency cookie run.

After Q&A with Elop and Muglia, next up: CFO Chris Liddell (and his delightful New Zealand accent) to talk about–hopefully–Microsoft’s billion-dollar revenue miss in its most recent quarter.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo