Yahoo, Google, AOL Strike a Pose for Microsoft

Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that Yahoo and Google are going to work together on an experiment that might lead to big things. In other words, a two-week test that is limited to Yahoo’s U.S. traffic will carry Google ads. These ads will be limited to “no more than 3% of Yahoo’s Web search queries.” If all goes well, then a broader search outsourcing arrangement could be struck by the two companies.

Loose translation: With its bid for Yahoo, Microsoft made a checkmate move. Yahoo is out of suitors. Its shareholders don’t give it a prayer of a chance, and further more, the company is still as listless as it was six months ago. So what does it do? It goes and sleeps with the enemy!

Just a reminder of Yahoo’s cluelessness: In 2000, it outsourced its search queries to Google. It renewed the deal in 2002, and has become a minor player in the search business. Anyway, about this new-found friendship, I wonder if the U.S. government is going to let this one through. I mean, this is one instance in which antitrust concerns could actually hold some merit.

Microsoft is pretty clear about its position. As Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel, told the WSJ:

“Any definitive agreement between Yahoo! and Google would consolidate over 90% of the search advertising market in Google’s hands. This would make the market far less competitive, in sharp contrast to our own proposal to acquire Yahoo!”

Either way, in this deal, heads or tails, Google comes away a winner. If Yahoo goes to Microsoft, the ensuing chaos is going to benefit Google. If Yahoo gives away its search ad business, Google is a winner.

Update: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Yahoo and Time Warner are planning on putting together a deal where Yahoo will get AOL which is being valued at $10 billion. In exchange Time Warner will get 20% of the combined company (Yahoo) and will make a cash investment. Google will be the search-ad-partner. Yahoo would spend the money it gets from Time Warner $10 billion buying back its own stock and beating down Microsoft. With Legg Mason, 7% owner of Yahoo opposing the Microsoft offer, the new plan could work. To make this plan come apart at seams unravel, Microsoft has to up the offer by a few dollars per share. I say this again, Yahoo has some serious problems. Buying AOL, already troubled in its own right, is only going to compound problems.

* Yahoo Press Release (link)
* Microsoft’s Response in a press release. (link)