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Microsoft to Buy Stake in AOL 333

NetDanzr writes "According to various sources (Bloomberg, Reuters, CNet), Microsoft is in talks with Time Warner to buy a stake in AOL. While the size of the stake or its prize has not been disclosed yet, Bloomberg speculates that this deal would profit both companies. Microsoft would profit from merging the AOL portal with MSN, as a strategy to catch up with his rivals in this space Yahoo and Google, while Time Warner would gain some ammunition in its fight with a renegade shareholder, Carl Icahn. According to CNBC, AOL is just about to turn the corner and is currently the most undervalued division of Time Warner."
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Microsoft to Buy Stake in AOL

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  • holy crap (Score:3, Funny)

    by DarkProphet ( 114727 ) <chadwick_nofx@EI ... minus physicist> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:47AM (#13566384)
    this marks the end!
  • by seniorcoder ( 586717 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:47AM (#13566389)
    Why wouldn't a statement come from CNBC declaring this to be a good purchase? It is from such an unbiased source after all.
  • No, NOOOOO! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Knight Thrasher ( 766792 ) * on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:47AM (#13566391) Journal

    This is the single most terrifying news I've heard all week. I'd almost... no, I WOULD prefer an asteroid the size of Texas hurdling at the Earth.

    • by RapmasterT ( 787426 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:48AM (#13566403)
      Might I suggest a finger gesture instead?
    • Why? I know you were going for the +5 Funny here, but seriously, how does this affect any of us in any way, shape, or form?

      Longhorn comes with some bastardized version of MSN/AOL preinstalled instead of just MSN? Microsoft starts getting monthly checks from several million people who's idea of the Internet is "downloading their email" and playing Bejeweled?

      I mean I guess Earthlink and NetZero are maybe sweating this, but so what?
    • by mattkime ( 8466 )

      no, I WOULD prefer an asteroid the size of Texas hurdling at the Earth.

      So would I, particularly if it was the shape of texas AND hit texas.

      Then again, we're about 5 years too late for it to do much good. :(

    • Seconded, especially if the asteroid was hurtling at Texas.
  • Oh no. (Score:5, Funny)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:48AM (#13566395)
    Just when you thought the world was safe, evil and evil unite. Been nice knowing you guys. I'm off to read "revelations" to see what's about to go down.
  • Bye bye Netscape (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RancidMilk ( 872628 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:48AM (#13566399)
    Does this mark the end of netscape???
    • Re:Bye bye Netscape (Score:3, Informative)

      by mopslik ( 688435 )

      Does this mark the end of netscape?

      I'm not an AOL user, so I don't know if AOL even uses Netscape anymore. But their Downloads page says that AOL Explorer [] is based on IE.

      In any case, there's always Mozilla/Firefox...

    • Re:Bye bye Netscape (Score:2, Informative)

      by WWWWolf ( 2428 )

      As if there was any Netscape left to end. The thing is these days nothing but a rotting husk or an aimlessly wandering ghost. Go google for "brand necrophilia" and see what comes up.

      I wouldn't be least bit surprised if I saw "Microsoft Netscape" or whatever. At least that would put end to all of those jokes about confused people calling tech support.

    • New Mod Needed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AviLazar ( 741826 )
      +1 Question

      How does this simple question get marked so insightful. Anytime someone mentions anything about any browser people pop-up the question that includes "end of netscape?"
      • "End of Netscape?" isn't that insightful of a question, but some times a simple rhetorical question can help shed light on a subject better than a long explanation. It's more powerful to say "what about _____?" and let the reader fill in the answer. That way it's there answer, and there conclusion, and they will be more willing to accept it, as apposed to saying "Yea, well ______" and then having to convince your reader to accept it.
      1. Netscape the company is long gone. There are a few people left, but 99% of the "original" 4000 or so employees who had an email address moved on. Look at [] and compare it to this archived version [] from 2000.
      2. The brand has already been repeatedly scuttled by (among other things):
        1. the squandering of the server assets by AOL (to the benefit of Sun)
        2. the missed opportunity for AOL to run on Netscape products.
        3. the "Netscape Online" ISP that failed to ignite much interest.


  • Let's see... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by op12 ( 830015 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:48AM (#13566400) Homepage
    MSN is not used by more than a handful of people as Google and Yahoo have been doing it better and cover both the cluttered and non-cluttered interfaces (whichever you prefer).

    And AOL has been steadily losing members.

    Sounds like a match made in heaven.
    • ...but MSN is used by more than a handful of people [].
      • Yeah, I guess it shouldn't be a big surprise that more Alexa toolbar users are Yahoo and MSN users than Google users :)

        Seriously though, I would guess most Google users would either use the Google toolbar over the Alexa one, or no toolbar at all. And the Alexa traffic counts are based only on their toolbar users who allow data to be sent back. While it may cover a lot of people, it also misses a lot of people.
  • Back to IE again?

    I realize it's not a big deal, but it's something worth discussing I think.
    • AOL already use IE, and really, Mozilla isn't a threat to Microsoft right now; IE still has 90% of the market or thereabouts.

      No, I predict that if this goes ahead, AIM is gradually killed off to be replaced with MSN, giving Microsoft instant monopoly control over instant messaging--and heading off the threat of Google Talk helping to open up IM.
  • Nooooooo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mitchell Mebane ( 594797 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:48AM (#13566406) Homepage Journal
    I thought the curse of the zombies was bad enough - now they'll be able to take over the world. Was the internet not bad enough already?

    I wonder if this deal has been in the making for a while - it would explain why AOL decided not to use Gecko.
  • by Ann Elk ( 668880 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:49AM (#13566411)

    Two great things that... uhh... nevermind.

  • IE lock-in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phayes ( 202222 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:49AM (#13566412) Homepage
    More probably, buying into AOL is a good way for Microsoft to ensure that AOL never abandons IE for Mozilla...
  • This is worrying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:51AM (#13566434) Homepage Journal
    Given AOL/Netscape's prime role in Mozilla development, I'd suggest this might be a nice plan to slow down the opposition, too. Yes, the Moz Foundation is independent, but the last time I checked, many of the dedicated coders are still AOL employees.
  • i don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SamSeaborn ( 724276 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:51AM (#13566436)
    There must be some huge aspect of the internet that I'm just out of the loop on.

    I don't use AOL, I don't use MSN ... I hardly even use instant messaging ... I just browse with Firefox and use email.

    I hear about how AOL is a major corporation and I wonder ... how? why? I hear that MSN and AOL are apparently merging, and I wonder ... how does that affect me? Why do people care?

    Really ... just ... don't ... get it. What am I missing?


    • Re:i don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ChocoBean ( 890202 )

      maybe it doens't affect you if you don't have relatives or friends or co-workers who in turn know other people from the states. The infiltration of MS and AOL is really deep in the "real" world, y'know.

      Just because you don't happen to use something everyone's heard of doesn't mean it isn't important. Don't you remember the days of your youth when everything other people care about, you care about as well?

    • Between AOL And Microsoft, They have a monopoly on both two letter and three letter internet acronyms, AIM, MSN, IE, WIN, OE, IM, You've Got Mail...etc. There will soon be no room for further acronyms and they will have taken over the internet!!!
    • I guess it's because they feast upon the uneducated. Not to mention the army of folks from the Windows 3.1 days who are just used to equating them with The Internets.

      I guess now in the early 2000's, their little playground is starting to rust out. Finally.

      This is all just purely personal opinion, however. :)
    • "What am I missing?"

      Free coasters.
    • Re:i don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:18AM (#13566742) Homepage Journal
      There is a huge chunk of the online population in the U.S., perhaps most of it, for whom computers are a tool, like a hammer or a radio. They never bother to investigate what else you can do with a hammer besides tack up a picture, nor ever realize that there is more to a radio than "FM 104.3 - your home for today's Country and all time favorites".

      For those folks, the Internet is either the little blue "e" or it's AOL. They don't have broadband, but they want it because the marketing geniuses at AOL have been telling them that AOL for broadband is better.

      There is another set of users, mostly teenagers, who use either AIM or MSN Messenger to send messages back and forth to their friends' cell phones all day long. It's like passing notes in class, but they do it before breakfast, during breakfast, in the car, between or in classes, and so on. They do homework over it.

      The teenagers don't know or care, for the most part, that there are dozens of IM clients and that they all pretty much work. They have MSN or AIM and that's all they need.

      A portion of both groups discover eventually that the world is bigger than their little corner of it, but, like programmers using vi to edit CSS, they stick with their original chat and web clients even knowing that there are better alternatives.

      I suspect that Microsoft and AOL has some synergy in that environment.
      • like programmers using vi to edit CSS

        There's no better way to edit CSS other than vi! Unless of course you are from the other camp...

      • A portion of both groups discover eventually that the world is bigger than their little corner of it, but, like programmers using vi to edit CSS, they stick with their original chat and web clients even knowing that there are better alternatives.

        And what the hell is wrong with using vi to edit CSS?

        I mean, it's not like we're using emacs or anything.

      • Ah, but those teenagers aren't actually paying for that IM service, which is why there's no need to switch to something that possibly would temporarily disrupt their social circle. Sure, other programs are slightly better, but you'd be surprised how little that matters when you are comfortable with what you have and it gets the job done.
      • Re:i don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cli_rules! ( 915096 )
        You mean there's something better than vi??
      • Re:i don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

        by burris ( 122191 )
        Don't be stupid. These people want broadband because they are painfully aware of how long it takes to download pictures, music, movies, tv shows, and porn. They don't do it just because they are told to.
  • Does this mean that AOL will never complete its planned switch from IE to the browser it owns (Netscape)?
    • by ranson ( 824789 ) * on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:03AM (#13566576) Homepage Journal
      > Does this mean that AOL will never complete its > planned switch from IE to the browser it owns > (Netscape)?

      Don't know where you get your information, but there was never any public discussion of a planned switch. The Compuserve and Mac clients use Gecko, and while it was tested in the WIndows client, an official plan to switch has never been publicly acknowledged. I can assure you AOL will be using IE as the core browser for many years to come (and that was true even prior to the MSN deal talks).
  • It's like all of the stupidity and evil on the web is forming together like some sort of monopolistic Voltron.

    Does this mean Google is going to build a giant robot to compete?

    Seriously, I haven't had enough coffee yet for this news, and it's before noon, so I can't hit the booze just yet.


  • Two wrongs (Score:5, Funny)

    by tompercival ( 318073 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:54AM (#13566457)
    Is this an example of two wrongs not making a right?
  • I thought eBay buying skype [] would be a bad deal.

    But Microsoft buying AOL would make a company more eval than.. (remember M$ is already the most evil company, or was it Google nowadays?)

    No More AOL CDs [] would have send the Millions CDs to Redmond then...that would be fun indeed.

    I can't wait for my AOL CD with Windows Vista trial on it.

  • by Beuno ( 740018 ) <> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @10:56AM (#13566493) Homepage
    I do not see how MS buying AOL stock is going to change ANYTHING at all in the Mozilla Foundation.
    They are self-sufficient, independent and have been since at least the start of FireFox.
    I think there are more programmers working in google then in AOL.
  • prize or price? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:00AM (#13566529)
    ...Microsoft is in talks with Time Warner to buy a stake in AOL. While the size of the stake or its prize has not been disclosed yet...

    Disclaimer: English is not my 1st language!

    ...but I think it is supposed to be price in the introductory sentence.

    • You could be right. Or, they could have been referring to a gamble by Microsoft... The 'stake' is the amount that you invest/wager; the 'prize' is the amount you receive if you win.

      Why this matters to analysts is that Microsoft could purchase the shares above current market value, which might cause a revaluation of AOL stock. Alternatively, if MS is overpaying, they could be faced with taking the difference between purchase price and value as a loss.
  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:00AM (#13566534)
    The moment the new combined AOL/MSN portal goes online, it will generate a vortex of suck large enough to consume the entire solar system, leaving nothing behind but a cloud of waveforms and probabilities.
  • All of these little competing applications will disappear in short order...
  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:02AM (#13566555)
    So when will Gates announce that AOL is "part of the operating system"?
  • by MrKahuna ( 789335 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:03AM (#13566565)
    Oracle buys Siebel.
    eBay buys Skype.

    Ballmer: (to Bill via bad cell phone connection) Billy-boy, what are we going to do? They're getting more press than us this week.
    Gates: Eh? Oh hell! ( as he spills his coffee on his lap and hangs up)
    Ballmer: Well, ok if you say so.
  • Is in talks (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 )
    This is not finalized. I'm wondering how this will play into the Antitrust settlement too. I don't see where this gives M$ a toe-hold into Google and Yahoo's search dominance. I CAN see where this give M$ a captive audience of sorts, but they had most of this people at "Hello" when they bought their Dell/HP/Compaq PC with Windows included. People are resetting their home page away from MSN.COM for a reason! It SUCKS! No one is saying, "MSN that and you'll find a page about..." People are killing MSN Messeng
  • ... imagine all the possibilities. Your speakers could be shouting "you've got infected" or "You have to update windows / Are you sure you don't want to update Windows ?" every 5 minutes !
  • This could be viewed as Microsoft making a bid to buy Netscape. Remember that AOL owns what is left of Netscape. This of course, includes the FireFox browser as well.

    So beyond the anti-trust issues surrounding a joined MSN-AOL portal / service, is the issue of Microsoft potentially owning at least a stake in the major browser that competes against Internet Explorer. Also, it is important to note that partial buy-outs are often precursors to complete buyouts.

  • Heavenly Delight (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rapturizer ( 733607 )
    AOL's lousy service plus M$'s lousy software, all forced upon corporations = $$$ for the consultants who will have the misfortune of making it (at least attempting to)work.
  • Current Fortune Cookie: Danger! Dragon in Flight!

    No electronic village will be safe during these dark times.

  • the post-iceberg Titanic. When they get there, they'll start selling lifeboats.

    Voila, an MSN almost the population of AOL.

    Unless Bill is simply tired of actually lighting his money on fire, this seems to be a fruitful motive.

  • Windows CDs for everyone?
  • Microsoft already has a dominant position in the dissemination of evil in the computer industry. By teaming up with AOL, they would have almost a complete monopoly in this area (especially as The SCO Group will soon be history). This tie up must be blocked unless either Microsoft or AOL commits to give up being evil.
  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:18AM (#13566740) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft isn't satisfied with the worst portal in the world. Now they want to buy the 2nd worst to guarantee their position.
  • by GecKo213 ( 890491 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:22AM (#13566784) Homepage

    Oh great! If this happens we may see the popup window ravage the desktop at all times. When you first sign in to Windows you may now get to see multiple credit card offers and all sorts of popup ads. Not to mention when you log off windows wouldn't let you shut down until the AOL portion of software imbedded has received all of it's needed updates!
    Damn the Machine!

  • by ubuntu2005 ( 912188 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:25AM (#13566804)
    Probably a nice investment for MS if they can combine their msn messenger users with AOL's instant messenger users. Would be quite dominant, and who knows the services they will think of to generate money from that. I have read countless articles about younger people not using emails these days, and using just instant messaging, noticed this specifically when I travelled to Korea this summer.
  • Why do I get the feeling the Masons are behind this?
  • "Bloomberg speculates that this deal would profit both companies."

    Wow, those Bloomberg analysts are really earning their money...
  • You just have to wonder how a convicted Monopoly would be allowed to buy any other company in the computer industry!!!

    Hello, wheres the SEC in this kind of stuff? I mean every Oracle looks to buy out something they throw a hissy fit (although still end up letting oracle buy up competitors) but Microsoft should have hurdles even higher to get over, but when they look to buy something NO ONE in any type of oversight role says ANYTHING!!

    I know, I know, they've bought everyone out. But it would be nice if our
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:35AM (#13566916) Journal
    MSN and AOL team up? Yeah - there's a marriage made in heaven. How'd you like to be the poor stiff in Bangalore sorting out the crap that's certain to result?

    Caller: Hi. I have MSN and my AOL account doesn't work. In fact nothing works.

    Banglaore Tech: And sir did you turn the computer on sir?

    Caller: Oh. right.

    Bangalore Tech: Very good sir. Now kindly go fuck yourself sir. Thank you for calling MSN/AOL tech support, you knuckle dragging imperialist asswipe sir.


  • Not that this would be why MS is purchasing them, but if there are still Mozilla developers working for AOL, my guess is that they'll be out of a job, soon.

    Also, the next edition of Netscape will be based solely upon IE, and won't be released for anything but Windows.

    Either way, though, its a nice way to see all the 'Evil' group up. Fine by me, and I'm sure Mozilla will find another home (Novell, possibly? Or IBM? Who knows, maybe Sun, or even a coalition)
    • AOL fired them all in 2003.

      Good. This might be the end of AOL. We'll see it rebranded as MSN, and it will continue to founder, until nothing is left.

      Let the continunously destructive mergers go forth!
  • Apple sued Microsoft, the lawsuit was settled in 1997 when Microsoft agreed to buy $200 million of Apple's stocks ( []).

    Sun Microsystems sued Microsoft, got a settlement in 2004 when Microsoft agreed to shell out $1.95 billion (,+a nnounces+layoffs/2100-1014_3-5183848.html []).

    AOL sued Microsoft in 2002 alleging the latter crushed its Netscape, and now...well, you get the picture.
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:00PM (#13567148)
    So here's the anagrams for AOL and MSN...


    "Salmon" has more logo possibilities;
    "Slam On!" will appeal to the x-treme and H4x0r crowd,
    but "Man, S.O.L.!" is probably closer to what most people think of this development.
  • Antitrust anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:03PM (#13567175) Journal
    This is possibly a most evil move. MS buys into AOL and has control (of some sort) of the browser market (IE, Netscape, Mozilla funding) but even more evil is that MS buys into several other categories:

    Digital content distribution (Time-Warner)
    VoIP (Time-Warner networks)
    Combined IM markets (AIM/MSN)
    DRM on all that content

    I hope that those anti-trust government types see this as evil the way that I do. I can't remember what cable companies are tied up in this mess, should it happen, but this is a move by MS to take over communications, digital and voice, as well as a large share of content and content distribution. EVIL EVIL EVIL... that's all I can see in it.

    I'm betting that the government will not be able to see the all digital, all-IP future that the FCC and others are trying to create being brought to a corporate congolmeration through moves like this one... Science fiction horror stories happening in real life.

    The jokes about MSN and AOL securing MS position with worst portal and search abound, but it proves that most computer users don't care or are clueless. That means that if MS manages this, the world of digital content and communications may become a very bad thing... imagine using an MS phone service? or MSN cable? You'll soon be able to get a BSOD on all your entertainment and communication devices!

  • by The Lynxpro ( 657990 ) <lynxpro@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:11PM (#13567254)

    Its fitting to see that Time Warner is planning on ditching its stake in AOL (just as its turning around) to a *former competitor* in order to boost share price and fend off a corporate raider like Carl Icahn today. 21 odd years ago, Warner Communications, facing a declining stock price and facing a corporate raider named Rupert Murdoch, sold off a 75% stake in Atari Inc. (the home computer/videogame division - later to be known as Atari Corp.) to *former competitor* Jack Tramiel (founder of Commodore) for $350 million in promissory notes in order to take off immediate pressure on Warner's stock. Murdoch eventually bought a controlling stake in 20th Century Fox instead since one of its big time shareholders fled the country on tax evasion. And it was evident even then that Atari was ready for a turnaround with the Atari 7800 ready for the market, hot 8 bit computers in heavy demand (the 1400XL and the 1450XLD) nearing release, a locked agreement to market the Amiga computer, and an almost completed agreement for non-Japanese worldwide rights to the Nintendo Famicom (which became the NES).

    Great track record, Time Warner! That's twice in a generation that you've botched the "synergy" payoff from having control of premiere tech companies with mass market appeal. First Atari, and then AOL.

    And let's recap the failures of Time Warner with AOL. Time Warner corporate failed to get Time Warner Cable to carry AOL as its premiere ISP, which was the #1 reason why AOL pursued the merger in the first place. Time Warner corporate failed to take any initiative to getting Time Warner Cable to make a deal with TiVo for set-top DVRs even though through AOL, Time Warner held a large stake in TiVo. Time Warner failed to leverage AOL's WinAmp property combined with the Warner Music Group interests...not to mention failing to envision an actual online music store like iTunes and instead relied upon nobody's favorite company Real to make MusicNet a success that it never became. I could list much more, but I'll end it with settling with Microsoft for less than $1 billion the antitrust case that AOL easily would've won the $10 billion they were demanding (and had that figure trebbled) had they committed to fight for the eventual ruling and a good 5 years of appeals.

    At this point, I'm all for Time Warner splitting up. Steve Ross must be spinning in his grave and it'll probably take Ted Turner to his well ahead of schedule.

  • by wardk ( 3037 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:14PM (#13567863) Journal
    wow, one big all-encompassing trailer park.

    far out

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