Rumors: Google, Microsoft, AOL

    September 17, 2005

Chatting with some marketing wonks this week, talk turned to how skilful Google has been at hanging back and creating false starts in various areas, with the hopes of spurring competitors to make the first move.

Then they come in when the picture is clearer. Classic Microsoft tactic, but it appears that Google has gotten as good Microsoft at this game. Take Skype; eBay blinked and overpaid for a technology that can be built better (or bought and built) by eBay’s competition and a user base that will migrate en masse over to whatever the industry standard becomes. This means Google keeps its powder dry for when it really needs it, and eBay now has this questionable investment to manage and pay for.

Turning to rumors about Microsoft being in talks to buy a stake in AOL: Is Google considering making a bid as well? They’ve raised enough cash to do so comfortably.

It seems highly unlikely, but I wouldn’t doubt that they might want Microsoft to think Google is interested. Microsoft has a lot of cash to burn, but still, inducing them to jump in and overpay for AOL (where have we heard this song before?) would have to be a source for some satisfaction at the Googleplex.

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Andrew Goodman is Principal of Page Zero Media, a marketing consultancy which focuses on maximizing clients’ paid search marketing campaigns.

In 1999 Andrew co-founded, an acclaimed “guide to portals” which foresaw the rise of trends such as paid search and semantic analysis.