Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz Talks Microsoft Deal, Search

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz updates media and analysts about the status of her company's partnership with Microsoft, which is currently undergoing an antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice. During a presentation focusing on Yahoo's new branding campaign, Bartz also discussed the integration of Bing into Yahoo search and showed some irritation about the media focus on Google.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz took some time during a presentation in New York to talk about her company's partnership with Microsoft, and Yahoo's new approach to search.

The Sept. 22 event at NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square marked the launch of a $100 million branding campaign designed to demonstrate Yahoo's viability given its recent partnership deal with Microsoft and loss of market share to Google.

Although much of the presentation's focus was on the "You" campaign and Yahoo's changes to its core product line, Bartz used a question-and-answer session to give an update on the status of the Microsoft-Yahoo partnership, formed over the summer, which will see Microsoft's Bing engine used to power search on Yahoo's sites while Yahoo takes over worldwide sales duties for both companies' search advertisers.

"Antitrust [evaluation] is going on as we predicted it would," Bartz said. "We just got a second request [from the Department of Justice]. We don't expect any[thing] different than we did in July. We still expect it to close in early 2010."

On Sept. 11, Microsoft confirmed that the Department of Justice was examining the deal more closely to ensure that the agreement falls within the boundaries of antitrust laws. Understandably, the company was tight-lipped about details.

"As expected, Microsoft and Yahoo have received requests for additional information about the agreement," Jack Evans, a spokesperson with Microsoft, said in a Sept. 11 statement e-mailed to eWEEK. "As we said when the agreement was announced, we anticipated that this deal will be closely reviewed and we are hopeful it will be approved by early 2010."

Bartz also implied that the Bing takeover of Yahoo's backroom search apparatus would ultimately have little effect how the company conducted its operations at the user end.

"Background search is much like an Intel chip," Bartz told the audience. "Thank God they've done their R&D and gotten it out into the world; but the experience that Dell wraps around those chips, and HP wraps around those chips, is different."

She added, "It's not Bing, it's Yahoo search. We will continue to drive relevance; search is incredibly important to us and our advertisers. We need to provide a great experience, even if the plumbing's down here."

Yahoo has previously asserted that Microsoft remains a competitor in the online arena. During an Aug. 24 press conference, Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Yahoo's Labs and Search Strategy, suggested that despite Yahoo pulling out of the "megawatt war" for search with the Microsoft deal, the company would still compete for users of online applications such as e-mail.
By integrating results from YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites into its front-end search results, Yahoo evidently hopes to increase the "stickiness" of its sites, keeping users there longer and thus attracting all-important advertising dollars. Yahoo has also been radically tweaking its offerings, including feature adjustments to Yahoo Search, Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo Mail.

At the Sept. 22 conference, Bartz had words for the assembled media representatives in the room, who she suggested had been playing up stories of Yahoo's imminent demise at the hand of Google.

"I think people put a cloud over [Yahoo's] head, and the company put a cloud over its head," Bartz said. "I just want to transplant all you guys out of your cynicism. Why aren't you cynical about Google? Leave us alone-we'll just deal with our users, because we do great things for them."