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AOL In Talks With Microsoft to Merge Online Divisions, Says WSJ

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the aol-needs-some-friends-at-smart-tech dept.

America Online 143

Ian Lamont writes "Microsoft executives are reportedly meeting with their AOL counterparts to discuss combining the two companies' online divisions. No one from either side is willing to comment, nor has the structure of the supposed deal been worked out. The original unconfirmed report comes from the Wall Street Journal (password-protected). A few months ago there was talk about AOL teaming up with Yahoo, but that never materialized." The free excerpt at the WSJ link above seems to say about as much as this Bloomberg wire report which refers to it, and the above-linked story at The Standard; this Reuters story indicates that AOL is still courting or being courted by Yahoo!, too.

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143 comments

AOLSoftHooMSN? (2, Funny)

ibanezist00 (1306467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219727)

I, for one, welcome our new defunct-ISP-turned-corporate-content-provider overlords.

I suggest Yaolsoft, as in Yaaaoooowwwwlllsoft. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220397)

Sheesh. Not off topic. Mod parent up. The first post reflects the disrespect that technically knowledgeable people generally feel.

But, "AOLSoftHooMSN" is not a sufficiently euphonious [reference.com] name for the combined company of Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft. I suggest Yaolsoft, as in Yaaaoooowwwwlllsoft.

Microsoft is also bidding to take over the Catholic Church [clevercomedy.com] , as part of Steve Ballmer's (unlikely) scheme to go to heaven.

In more interesting news, I used "euphonious" in a sentence for the first time.

Steve Ballmer as Pope? G.W. Bush as destroyer? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220505)

Those who think it is unlikely that Steve Ballmer will ever be Pope can consider that it seemed unlikely that a failed Texas oilman would be elected president and destroy both the reputation and the economy of the United States.

Re:Steve Ballmer as Pope? G.W. Bush as destroyer? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#24222259)

Those who think it is unlikely that Steve Ballmer will ever be Pope

Less likely than en ex-member of the Hitler Youth?

Microsoft and AOL... LOL (5, Funny)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219769)

What better way to secure your future than merge yourself with a failing online business (AOL)?

WTF is MS thinking these days...

Welcome to Web 1.0...

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (4, Funny)

Cathoderoytube (1088737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219953)

It's clearly intended to taunt Yahoo!. What better way to intimidate a company that won't let you take them over than to team up with their inferior competitor?

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (1)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220069)

What better way to intimidate a company that won't let you take them over than to team up with their inferior competitor?

Do they even really compete with each other? I always view AOL as an ISP, not as a content provider. I mean does AOL really make any income off their search results?

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (5, Funny)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220613)

They haven't been a content provider for several years. Now they just make their money by billing your grandmother for service she canceled 10 years ago.

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220779)

It's clearly intended to taunt Yahoo!. What better way to intimidate a company that won't let you take them over than to team up with their inferior competitor?

Uh... s/Yahoo!/Google/ right?

...Oh, I get it :-)

The Google obsession (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220109)

Ballmer is completely fixated with trying to beat Google, if only in the very short term. Ballmer wants eyeballs and user base to be able to say:"Yes, I beat Google". Of course, in the grander scheme of things two sinking ships are still sinking and Google is only growing in market share. Further, Google has almost gotten big enough that it is bigger than the rest of the players combined so the window of opportunity to beat Google has slammed shut.

Ballmer's craziness is also reflected in their other acquisitions. Why would they buy http://www.danger.com/ [danger.com] which has no integration with Windows Mobile? Only to make fight with Google's Android.

MS supposedly cost $10bn to develop (depending on what sources you read) and MS was prepared to spend $40bn for Yahoo. Surely MS should be thinking of spending more on fixing their core business.

Hey Ballmer, if you want to survive then you need to be less competitor focused and more customer focused. Don't let you megalomania divert you from core business.

Re:The Google obsession (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#24222525)

You're giving business advice to Microsoft? Whoa, time to buy some pigs... I'm about to open an environmentally friendly airline :)

The 80s called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220237)

OMG... nothing screams "fail" like AOL. If MS had any brains, they would take AIM, maybe their web mail... and that's it. Just ask Time-Warner (or Ted Turner) about what a great boat anchor AOL is.

Sigh.

Anyway... from OP:
"this Reuters story indicates that AOL is still courting or being courted by Yahoo!, too."

Yahoo? Are they still around? Maybe AOL, Netscape, Yahoo, Prodigy, and Earthlink can all get together and make one huge "Glory Days" tech company. That would be great, it would let them keep all the fail in one place, sort of like the Republican party.

IM (2, Insightful)

Nightspirit (846159) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220331)

I'm sure AOL's IM portion is lucrative. With MS messenger and AIM, and already existing compatibility with yahoo networks, that pretty much leaves no-one else (with any significant market share).

Re:IM (1)

strabes (1075839) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220921)

What about google chat? Since this is slashdot, I'll provide anecdotal evidence. Almost everyone on my adium contact list has gchat. If they have an AIM screen name they also most likely have a gchat address. I do not know one person that uses yahoo chat. I know two people that use MSN messenger on a regular basis.

This might be legit information, except unfortunately my sample population consists of a few hundred college students.

Re:IM (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221301)

I don't know anyone's AIM address, I doubt more than two people have them. Everyone I know has MSN.

What people use is very regional. AIM is very popular in the USA, MSN in Europe (I don't remember about anywhere else).

Thinking about it, the American students I know studying in the UK probably have AIM addresses, but they presumably signed up for an MSN address pretty quickly once they realised "AIM" got blank looks.

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220481)

Half a step forward and 200 steps backwords? Trying to go back to 1990s eh?

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (1)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220529)

WTF is MS thinking these days...

Not sure, but if I owned any stock in them I'd dump it now. What next? Are they going to try and merge with hotbot and lycos?

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221449)

Compare the annual increases in revenue:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=MSFT&annual [yahoo.com]
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=GOOG&annual [yahoo.com]

Microsoft is thinking that they want to keep growing their business and they have huge income and big war chest to support those activities. They think Yahoo! and AOL are poorly managed and believe they can do a better job 'realizing' value per eyeball. They are prepared to risk billions of dollars because they see billions of dollars in online advertising revenue coming over the next 50 years.

Culture Match (4, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221167)

What better way to secure your future than merge yourself with a failing online business (AOL)? WTF is MS thinking these days...

Maybe they figure they are a better culture match than with Yahoo. AOL was about lucklaster ads, controlling user experience, inconsistent interfaces, sneaking your products into every device, and closed standards. A match made in heaven!
   

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL CLEARLY (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221403)

They are thinking of "AOSmell"?

Or, maybe this is about ms getting ready to start giving away ms windows vista on CDs in cereal boxes, mini-DVDs on cigarette packs, and on Hot Rod magazine?

Or, maybe they see themselves as the "starter account" newbies go to before graduating to Apple or Open Source...

(Yeh, go ahead.... mark me "troll".)

Re:Microsoft and AOL... LOL (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24222417)

They can't knock out #1 (Google). #2 (Yahoo) told them to get stuffed. So Microsoft settled for an astronomically distant #3. I keep hearing "Ha! Ha!" from mom's basements all over the world...

Hooray (5, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219789)

Hooray....Now I only have to hate one company,

Re:Hooray (1)

Khaed (544779) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220077)

Aw c'mon, there are far more than these two for us geeks to hate.

I'd make a list, but most of them also have a fair number of geeky fanboys and the last thing I need is to be hunted down by a Sony/Apple/etc fanboy and have to dodge soggy pocket-protectors...

Seriously, I didn't even think they gave you a slashdot account without hating at least five corporations and 89/100 US Senators.

Re:Hooray (1)

hostyle (773991) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220233)

Why are you still so bitter Mr Shatner? Is it cause we love Wil Wheaton more?

KKHHAAAEEEEDDDD!!!!

Re:Hooray (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221485)

For a while, they didn't give you an account if you were emotionally invested in non personal legal entities.

Re:Hooray (1)

bonehead (6382) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220955)

Hooray....Now I only have to hate one company,

Oh, come one, cut AOL some slack. Sure, their service sucks, but back in the day I never had to spend any money on floppy disks thanks to them.

Re:Hooray (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221207)

Hooray....Now I only have to hate one company

But now you'll be inundated with 30-day Vista disks. Careful what you wish for.
     

They aren't bankrupt yet? (5, Funny)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219803)

... I would have thought my penchant for snagging all the free AOL disks I see and using them as frisbees, coasters, and arranging them in strange geometric designs on my wall (ad-side hidden) would have drained all of their resources by now. So sad.

Two Dying Firms racing to the bottom (1, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219853)

Can't say anyone really cares much anymore about either one.

And I say that as a former shareholder of both.

I see the future.... (5, Funny)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219901)

AOL Account cancellation policy for MS' new subscription based access to Office.

Re:I see the future.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24222959)

Can you remod parent insightful please. Please!? Having to call to cancel and be treated like dirt in the process sucks. There is a reason a premium can be charged for ownership. I think renting/leasing software is leaving money on the table. Ultimately, their business plan will realize, "let user 4549084 cancel, or let user 4549084 have 3 free months on the offchance we can charge on months 4, 5, etc.". Or maybe they won't shoot themselves in the foot but goodluck with easy cancellations. Will it be like a cellphone company with early termination fees?

Nothing (4, Insightful)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 5 years ago | (#24219985)

No one from either side is willing to comment, nor has the structure of the supposed deal been worked out. The original unconfirmed report comes from the Wall Street Journal (password-protected). A few months ago there was talk about AOL teaming up with Yahoo, but that never materialized.

Translation:

We know absolutely nothing because nobody is talking about the unconfirmed idea that supposedly sort of was talked about some time ago.

WTF?

Re:Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24221241)

Well, that's true, plus business people think and talk about possible deals all the time. Given Microsoft's position they've probably talked to just about every company in the software business in the US. So that's hardly news.

Yet I find it interesting because I've long held the position that Microsoft has no interest in online services and would love nothing more than to offload MSN/Live, Hotmail and the rest.

To see why, you need to consider Microsoft's corporate culture. What they know is selling stuff to providers; end-users have not been a consideration since the late 70's and the IBM deal. What they like are reasonably constant revenue streams. The last thing they want is to compete in the email business with any Tom or Harry who can set up his own email, image sharing or social networking website for the price of hosting it. They may have toyed with the idea of owning a person's life and then charging for access to it when they bought Hotmail, but they've long realised that it would not happen.

The only known way to make money on the web is by selling ads. And ads are a good match for Microsoft's corporate culture: it's recurring, and you can sell to service providers and not have to deal with pesky customers. Sure, you can sell ads via Hotmail, but it's much better to pay Tom and Harry a modest amount for hosting those, and let them fight for customers and the spoils. That's why they'd like to spin off their online services.

But they just tried to buy Yahoo, you say...

Well, no, actually what they tried to buy was Yahoo's search business, which include the Yahoo home page and its traffic. The thing, you see, is that search is the keystone for selling ads, because that's where people go when they're looking for something. Best place to put an ad. You could have ad boxes on 75% of web sites, nobody will talk to you if you're not a player in the search business. So they need the Yahoo home page.

In the same vein, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if they stopped selling XBoxes, offloaded that job to consumer electronic companies and only kept *that* Live service and its subscribers.

Question (1)

xclr8r (658786) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220015)

Would MS still have gone after AOL if they had a successful bid on Yahoo?

Re: Question (1, Interesting)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220315)

"Would MS still have gone after AOL if they had a successful bid on Yahoo?"

Obviously *no*, but isn't Microsoft also going to have to report this deal to the US antitrust subcommittee [infoworld.com] .. :)

America Non-Online? (2, Funny)

robkore (251928) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220023)

"Microsoft executives are reportedly meeting with their AOL counterparts to discuss combining the two companies' online divisions."

I'd be interested to know what America Online's Non-Online division does.

Re:America Non-Online? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220217)

Hello from America On Line's non-online division.

America On Line's non-online division handles the non-online portions of America On Line's business. This includes managing various activities related to America On Line's non-online activities, as well as anticipating global paradigm shifts on the non-online ecospace, as they pertain to America On Line's non-online geosphere.

At America On Line's non-online division we pride ourselves on our commitment to serving your needs through anticipatory evolution and dynamic relationship-building with our service base. Rest assured, here at America On Line's non-online division, no distance is too great for us to go to ensure quality, accurate, and timely non-online activities. Never will you see America On Line's non-online division online. No sir or ma'am. America On Line's non-online division is working too dilligently offline to fool around with online fooling around.

So we hope this introduction helps you understand us here at America On Line's non-online division and to help us better serve you, the valued customer with non-online needs.

Re:America Non-Online? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220809)

Stop going on the internet! You know it's against the rules!
  -America Online's non-online division's online monitoring department

Ok, yeah, great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24221675)

So, do you have a website?

Re:America Non-Online? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220569)

I'd be interested to know what America Online's Non-Online division does.

I think the network access and advertising components were split sometime in the last year, with talk about Time-Warner planning to sell off the former. If that is correct, my assumption (which may be wrong) would be that the "Online division" that Microsoft would be courting would be the access piece, with AOL's dwindling base of remaining subscribers.

Microsoft after e-mail accounts (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220029)

What else would they really be getting from AOL?

Re:Microsoft after e-mail accounts (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220997)

AIM. If MS can put AIM and MSN together, they have about 80% of the worlds IM market. Think of all the data to mine from there.

My God... (5, Funny)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220033)

It's like the perfect storm of suck. Maybe that's their business model: suck so bad that nothing, not even light can escape.

Re:My God... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220265)

"We just suck" doesn't have quite the ring to it "It just works" had. Then again it's better than the "Crashes less than ME". I think the Microsoft marketing department has lost the will to live.

Re:My God... (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220491)

I would think the idea would be to suck so hard nothing, not even the customer's money, can escape. It's an interesting business strategy and I, for one, am anxious to see if it works.

Re:My God... (1)

blantonl (784786) | more than 5 years ago | (#24223105)

More like, the model sucks so bad, that people will actually pay money to see how bad it sucks.

I'd love to see this whole thing go down.

Sort of like paying an admission fee to a train wreck.

Go Microsoft: +1, Cheeful (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220047)

Buy AO-HELL. While you are on an acquisition binge, please buy these U.S. winners: Chrysler, Ford, AND General Motors.

Good riddance to all three of the U.S. Big Three. If you can,
buy Lee Coca-Cola and ship him to China.

Thanks for nothing,
Kilgore Trout, Micosoft-Hater.

Everyone Wins! (4, Interesting)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220053)

Despite AOL being in the twilight of its existence, I think it would be an absolutely shrewd move on the executive's part to merge/sell-out to another company. That way, they have their buy-out packages as a between job buffer. Microsoft can gut the company and use their data centers and such. I won't have to deal with AOL as a browser or dial-up service on people's computers anymore. Everyone wins! [except the employees of AOL]

Re:Everyone Wins! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220103)

Everyone wins! [except the employees of AOL]

In modern times, such things aren't even considered among the costs of a decision. The same goes for the negative impact that consumers, and the economy as a whole, experiences as a result of continued movement towards monopoly-and-cartel-dominated industries.

Re:Everyone Wins! (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220213)

Jeeze... Where did the sense of humor go around here? If I wanted to hear a comment like that, I would go back to business school.

Re:Everyone Wins! (1)

QuietObserver (1029226) | more than 5 years ago | (#24222923)

Not intending to sound like Hans Moleman, but I thought you were just being funny. The most ironic bit, however, is that Microsoft's stock price has actually gone up (relatively) steeply the past two days, despite a month of generally poor performance.

Re:Everyone Wins! (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220523)

The industry itself would still be dominated by companies like Verizon and Google. Microsoft is basically trying to vacuum up the leftovers, assuming TFA is correct.

Re:Everyone Wins! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24221693)

A way to get datacenters? It's like a microwave meal.. ready to serve. Already staffed, network already laid out, etc..

What... is Ballmer stuck in 1999 or something? (0, Troll)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220067)

Vista = Windows ME

Microsoft wanted to buy AOL or compete directly with the MSN network and now they're back to that again.

Maybe they're thinking they can get a set of dedicated eyeballs to use with a revamped "Xbox-ish" live service (except for your GRANDMA!) on the PC and thus up their search engine hits for ad space...

AOL users (1)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220135)

AOL users are probably also in the Vista fan club so this might actually be a good thing for M$. Several dozen more satisfied customers.

Oh. My. God. (1)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220167)

Wow. This would be the worst software conglomerate ever. On the other hand, it means that only one company would need to go bankrupt.

Tagged: companyfromhell.

WSJ is just another news corp property... (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220589)

All "news" from the WSJ is suspect now that it is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It is now in the same family as page six in the New Your Post. I think I would look elsewhere for reliable business news.

Dialup (2, Interesting)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220625)

I would think for dialup, people are gonna go with AOL or MSN because those are the names out there. It's been years n years since I've used dialup or even remember seeing a local place advertise for it. The way websites are getting crazier and crazier stuffing content onto them Microsoft knows that the best way to secure future high speed users is to have them as current dialup users.

Re:Dialup (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221063)

Microsoft knows that the best way to secure future high speed users is to have them as current dialup users.

I don't think MS even has a high-speed internet service. And anyways the reason that 99.999% of people are stuck on dial up is because there is no high-speed internet where they live (and for anyone living outside of a rural town, the hope of getting high-speed internet is very slim)

Re:Dialup (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221625)

How many dial-up customers do AOL have anyway? Here, their unlimited dial-up service is 15.99/month, 1 more than their "wireless broadband" service (10GB/month). (Other basic providers are half that cost, or even less.)

Re:Dialup (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221643)

There are meant to be pound sterling signs before the numbers. I don't know where they went, I even typed out the HTML entity (&sterling;) for them: since the character usually breaks: £

I predict their first marketing maneuver... (3, Insightful)

HiVizDiver (640486) | more than 5 years ago | (#24220839)

... paying everyone who forwards an e-mail message $245.00

http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/microsoft-aol.asp [snopes.com]

Life imitates an urban legend. Shit.

Re:I predict their first marketing maneuver... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221113)

... paying everyone who forwards an e-mail message $245.00

And you will need it too, because the price for Windows 7 is going to be $600 for the upgrade-from-Vista-doesn't-do-anything version and the $2000 for the does-the-same-as-XP-version

Can you.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24220967)

Imagine what wonderful quality products they will out with!!!

oops my bad..

Embrace the suck (2, Funny)

dexomn (147950) | more than 5 years ago | (#24221807)

AOL should seriously consider joining The SCO Group. Two dodo's (Albatross for the moment maybe?) with one stone.

AOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24221903)

It's off topic, but their name was a major hindrance to expansion. Call a firm America OnLine.... then try to sell it to me, who happens to live in England, which is quite a long way from America. Most companies learn that global branding goes a long way. AOL didn't. If they'd had the brains they'd have rebranded in Europe. Maybe EOL.... ah, It's a small thing, but pennies make a pound at the end of the day.

Still, having thought about it: but then there's Asia, Africa, Australasia and Antarctica. Maybe they should have rebranded Europe instead. Auropa is quite snappy.

Yay, Vista coasters! (2, Interesting)

Khelder (34398) | more than 5 years ago | (#24222673)

I guess this means soon I'll start getting a stream of Vista CDs in the mail and I can "upgrade" my coasters. Pretty handy in the hot & humid weather here, I'll tell you.

Sound familiar? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24222939)

Have you heard the news? We will soon be getting Windows 7 CDs in the mail offering a free 3 month trial. And if you try to cancel at the end of your 3 months, Microsoft will indefinitely prolong your free subscription.

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