Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, did a live interview at Search Marketing Expo West in California (transcript here). He said several things that have a lot of people asking a lot of questions and making more than a few conjectures too. The recent deal with Yahoo! that has received the OK from the European Union and will begin rolling out over the next year plus the question of who’s talking to who at Twitter are hot topics right now.
Ballmer’s remarks on the deal with Yahoo! made it clear that Microsoft wants to roll forward with their advertising and integration, through Bing, quickly. At the same time, CNBC interviewed Yahoo’s CEO, Carol Bartz, and pointedly asked her not only about the attempted buyout by Microsoft (for which Bartz was not CEO or even at Yahoo), but about whether she would entertain another MS offer today. Her answer to the latter? “Sure.”
Now the question there is whether Microsoft would be amenable to offering another buyout. With Yahoo’s stock down to around the $15 mark per share, it could be a bargain for the Seattle Giant, who offered $33/share a couple of years ago. The new question now would be whether MS would gain much from the purchase, since Bing is already beat that double-digit market share on its own.
Speaking of that, much of the conversation during the Q&A with Ballmer centered on Bing’s growth and, of course, the search giant: Google. Ballmer was willing to give props to Google for “getting it right first.” His implication, obviously, being that being first doesn’t necessarily make them best anymore, but it does give them the King of the Mountain status (for now).
Now for Twitter. During the interview, the MS CEO was asked about Twitter. Here’s his resposne to that, which you can judge for yourself:
Q: You mentioned Twitter. Buy them, should you be buying them? Should you get them out there, they’ve got that great data, shouldn’t you just own the whole company and have it out there?
STEVE BALLMER: Not clear. I mean, we have a great relationship and partnership with Twitter. Not clear to me. I mean, I would hate to not have that partnership. Whether we need to own the company or not I think is far less clear. In some senses, as an independent, they have a lot of value and a lot of credibility, I think, with their user community. Would they have that same credibility with the user community if they were captive? Not clear. And they want to be an independent company, which means we want to have a great partnership with them, and do a good job.
Coming from that outspoken CEO, a non-answer like that says volumes. Obviously, partnership or buyout are just as good as far as Microsoft is concerned.