Ballmer predicts the death of print media, hints Yahoo bid may not be over

In a Q&A session with the Washington Post, Ballmer talked plainly about Microsoft's bid for Yahoo. While he certainly

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didn't say Microsoft was interested in purchasing Yahoo outright again, he confirmed that with Carl Icahn in the picture, Microsoft remains interested, at the least in picking Yahoo's bones. The story says:

Q Is Microsoft no longer interested in buying Yahoo? What about the effort by billionaire Carl Icahn to take over Yahoo?

A: Will something happen with Yahoo? Every day is a new day. We'll see what happens. We had no contact with Carl Icahn before he bought his stake . . . Obviously, he has talked to some of our folks since then. He's kind of an independent actor in the thing.

We made an offer; there clearly was a bid-ask difference. We offered less than they wanted. We did move on. We've had some discussions subsequent to that. We have not re-engaged in the discussions about the acquisition of the whole company. We are discussing other forms of strategic cooperation. That's 100 percent accurate.

But whether Microsoft and Yahoo merge, or whether Microsoft plucks off some sort of stake in Yahoo's advertising business, Ballmer's other statements made it clear where he thinks the world of media is heading. He sees the death of print. It's a very convenient point of view for a company banking heavily on online advertising with no stake at all in the print world.

Who knows? He could be right. It could shake out that in a decade or so the online world has killed the print world -- in the same way that automobiles killed the horse-and-buggy market. But it could also be that the online world -- well into its second decade already -- will kill print media the way televison killed radio. Last time anyone noticed, there were more radio stations than ever (thank you, satallite radio), even though there are also more televsion stations than ever. Last time anyone looked, brick-and-morter stores like Barnes and Noble hadn't evaporated (in fact, there are more of them than ever, too) and the print magazine section they host hadn't evaporated either.

If Microsoft can keep its eyes firmly on creating new advertising opportunities for itself -- like hosting healthcare records -- and give up the idea that the only way to succeed is on the death knell of another, it will reshape the online world forever. If it only moves when trying to grab a prize from another, it will me-too itself right into who-cares land.

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