By Sam Diaz
Is it just me or does it feel like Microsoft is starting to sound - quite frankly - a bit desperate for a search deal with Yahoo?
The Times (UK) today blasted out the headline: Microsoft reopens door to deal with Yahoo!, citing an interview with Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner. But we already knew that Microsoft wanted a Yahoo deal. CEO Steve Ballmer said so in January, shortly after new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz came on board, and then again last month. Shortly after that, Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell said that a search deal would be an "incredibly useful step" but was quick to note that a deal with Yahoo is not a panacea.
Are there any other Microsoft executives that need to say it? Actually, in all fairness, I realize this isn't a case of Microsoft execs calling press conferences every month to say that they're still interested in Yahoo. The media asks the question and then builds a headline around the answer.
Bartz, who has also been peppered with questions about a deal with Microsoft, has finally suggested that everyone just chill out and wait. In comments at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference, Bartz said:
"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."
Bartz seems to have the upper-hand here. She's still sorting through the mess at Yahoo. She's still re-organizing management. She's still evaluating the properties and priorities within the site. She knows Microsoft wants a deal - but, clearly, she's not yet ready to talk publicly about any deal with Microsoft.
At the Goldman Sachs Technology Conference last month, CFO Blake Jorgensen (who announced his resignation the next day) said that the company "is not opposed to a deal that would maximize the value of the business, be it a partnership or sale in the long term" but was quick to point out that search is a complex business that connects - literally, on servers - with other elements of the business, such as Mail and Messenger. He said:
"It's difficult to draw a line down the middle of the organization and split it into two. That doesn't mean it can't be done. It could. But we'd want to do it right."
In the meantime, Microsoft is moving forward and has started internal testing of its new search product, codenamed Kumo.
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