Microsoft Hungry for Acquisitions: Ballmer

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-10-18 Print this article Print

Redmond plans to make about 100 acquisitions—from $50 million to $1 billion—during the next five years, Ballmer said.

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer refused to say whether the software company was looking to buy either Yahoo or Facebook, despite much prodding from John Batelle, the co-host of the Web 2.0 Summit here Oct. 18. But Redmond does expect to acquire about 20 companies—from $50 million to $1 billion—every year for the next five years, including companies that use open-source software, he said.
"We have a great partnership with Facebook on the advertising front. We love Facebook and well see where that takes us," was all that Ballmer would say with regard to a potential acquisition.
Asked if it was making money from the Facebook deal, Ballmer evaded the question by saying the rumor was that it was not. "But we are learning more and more every day and I am delighted about where we are and what we are learning," he said. Does a Microsoft-Facebook tie portend the next Net bubble? Click here to read more. With regards to Yahoo, Ballmer said it was a great company and Microsoft had a good, constructive relationship with it. He also acknowledged that many people assumed that because "the No. 1 player [Google] is so much bigger than No. 2 and 3, it makes sense for a couple of them to join together." But Microsoft believed in its path of independence "and we really like what we are doing. At some point maybe it [a merger/acquisition] would make sense, but thats not where we are going," he said. After shelling out $6 billion in cash to buy aQuantive, which owns interactive ad agency Avenue A RazorFish, Ballmer said "there are not many potential acquisitions in the $6 billion to $15 billion range, and on all of those that there are, I will say no comment." Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has warned about making comparisons between it and Google. Click here to read more. As expected, Ballmer also announced the public beta release of Popfly, a tool built on Microsoft Silverlight that lets people build and share mashups, gadgets, Web pages and applications. Asked what he was happy with and what needed improvement at Microsoft, Ballmer said he was happy with everything, but that it all also needed improvement. "We are going gangbusters in the enterprise space, but there is so much there that we havent even touched," he said. Microsoft had come from nowhere quickly in terms of search, he said, and was a relatively small player in terms of the market leader in that space [Google]. "So in every area, there is a lot of good and a lot of room for improvement," he said. With regard to his previous description of Google as a one-trick pony, Ballmer said that comment needed to be put in context. Technology companies historically started out in a specific area and then filled out around that. But Microsoft already had two tricks: it had started out as a desktop company, but was now also a big player in the enterprise space and was trying to be a three- or four-trick pony, unlike Google, which seemed to be wed to one business model and one technology area, Ballmer said. "But, to become this multiple-trick pony, we have to give our staff the independence to pursue new and strategic areas. And once we find something exciting, we move very quickly," he said. Turning to Microsoft Office and Office Live, and the threat to these from many of the online competitors, Ballmer said Microsofts job was to deliver productivity. Read more here about how Microsoft Office has gone online. Asked what he thought about Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Ballmer said it was a good, simple collaboration tool but could not do what most of its customers used Word and Excel for today. To achieve Microsofts stated goal of building an advertising business that accounted for 25 percent of its revenue, Ballmer said the company had to do a number of things well: firstly, it had to do search well as the most lucrative advertising came out of search; secondly, it had to be good at community and communications; and, thirdly, it had to have a very strong advertising platform that could deliver across all models. The ad syndication model would be redefined over the next five years as it was rather narrowly defined today, Ballmer said, adding that most syndication currently involved simple text ads with no guaranteed delivery. "The ad platform has to evolve to give guaranteed delivery and to include the rate card rather than just through syndication," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel