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August 31, 2008

Microsoft to launch Skymarket for Windows Mobile app sales

Posted by David Hunter at 9:43 PM ET.

Skymarket logo Microsoft has apparently noticed that Apple has been making serious cash from their iPhone App Store and is planning their own marketplace for Windows Mobile applications if Long Zheng’s reading of some incautious Microsoft job postings is correct. When you see things like:

Job Title: Senior Product Manager – Skymarket
This is a unique opportunity and time of rapid change in the mobile industry for a Senior Product Manager in the Mobile Communications Services team to drive the launch of a v1 marketplace service for Windows Mobile.

Key Responsibilities include the following:

  • Definition of the product offering, pricing, business model and policies that will make the Windows Mobile marketplace “the place to be” for developers wishing to distribute and monetize their Windows Mobile applications

there isn’t much doubt. Hit the link for more and Zheng’s observations that Windows Mobile apps are currently quite numerous, but Microsoft has never previously seized the opportunity to organize a marketplace for their sale. There’s no firm indication of date, but Skymarket might well accompany Windows Mobile 7 (codenamed “Photon”) in 4Q08 or 1H09 although the former would seem to be a stretch considering they haven’t hired the staff yet.



Filed under Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7

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August 29, 2008

Microsoft buys Greenfield Online, only wants Ciao subsidiary

Posted by David Hunter at 10:05 AM ET.

Ciao logo Microsoft today announced the acquisition of online survey firm Greenfield Online for US$ 486 million, but also revealed that they are in turn selling off all of the company to an unnamed buyer except for subsidiary Ciao GmbH, "one of Europe’s leading price comparison, shopping and consumer reviews sites." Rafat Ali at paidContent.org explains that this rather convoluted deal is actually even more complex:

In a complex and slightly confusing transaction, Greenfield Online, the online market research and surveys company, which earlier this week rejected a bid by media PE firm Quadrangle, is now being bought by an unlikely buyer: Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), for about $486 million, $60 million more than the previous bid. MSFT is paying through a cash tender offer for $17.50 per share for the Wilton, Conn-based firm, as opposed to Quadrangle’s $15.50 a share bid.

BUT, as part of this buyout, Microsoft will sell off what Greenfield is best known: its online surveys division, and will only retain its European comparison shopping services part.

To give you an idea, for Q208, Greenfield had revenues of $36.0 million, out of which its surveys unit contributed $24.6 million, while the Ciao unit was $11.4 million, though in terms of operating income, [the] Ciao unit contributed $5.6 million out of a total operating income of $11.7 million.

Under the earlier deal, which had a go-shop provision, Quadrangle had the right to match any superior offer, but turns out it decided not to, and Greenfield Online is required to pay Quadrangle a $5 million breakup fee. It could be that the un-named financial buyer for the surveys unit is Quadrangle itself, but no hints in the company statements.

All of this is in furtherance of Microsoft’s pursuit of commercial search as the ticket to success in its quest to defeat Google (cf. Live Search cashback and the recent reorganization). However, while shopping sites certainly are a remunerative niche, they really don’t really dislodge Google from its gatekeeper role on all searches, commercial and otherwise.



Filed under Acquisitions, Coopetition, Google, Live Search, Microsoft, Windows Live

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August 27, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 released

Posted by David Hunter at 6:07 PM ET.

IE8 logo Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch today announced the availability of beta 2  of Internet Explorer 8. Prospective tire kickers can grab a copy at the Windows Internet Explorer 8 Home Page. Hachamovitch also lists new IE 8 features including reopening closed tabs, a "Smart Address Bar," and various safety and reliability enhancements.

Frankly, I have rather unwillingly given up on Internet Explorer 7 since it is such a lumbering behemoth particularly when using tabs. The only time I ever voluntarily open it is when I need to print a Web page (because the IE printing fidelity is superior to Firefox) and when I am checking how pages render in IE, since it is still the predominant browser and sets its own peculiar standard. In that regard, Hachamovitch reported that

IE8 is more interoperable with other web browsers and web standards. The contribution of CSS 2.1 test cases to the W3C is an important in order to really establish a standard way to assess standards support. We think that CSS 2.1 remains the most important place to deliver excellent interoperability between browsers.

After deciding to default IE8 to the most standards-compliant mode available, we wanted to be sure to address compatibility concerns for organizations and individuals. Would websites that expect IE8 to behave the way IE7 does create a problem for end-users? Since March, we’ve been telling developers about a small change they can make to their sites to tell IE8 to show their sites as IE7 does. Many have – but there are a lot of sites that may have not yet addressed this. The Compatibility View button (new to IE8 Beta 2) is a good solution to provide end-users a good experience as the web transitions.

It appears that Microsoft is really attempting to stuff the incompatibility genie back in the bottle which is all to the good, but the proof will be in the pudding on that and IE8 performance.

Update on August 8, 2008: Microsoft has released a convenient crib sheet listing the new features of IE8 beta 2.



Filed under Beta and CTP, IE8, Internet Explorer, Microsoft

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August 25, 2008

Microsoft to swap Avenue A|Razorfish for WPP’s Open AdStream?

Posted by David Hunter at 3:08 PM ET.

Avenue A Razorfish logo AdAge’s Abbey Klaassen has a juicy rumor that Microsoft is negotiating with the WPP Group to swap some misfits they picked up in their respective acquisitions of aQuantive and 24/7 Real Media:

Almost six months after the companies started talking, WPP and Microsoft have reopened talks that could have the software company unloading Avenue A/Razorfish. But the question is whether Microsoft could ever get anyone to buy the digital ad agency for the price at which it needs to sell it.

What Microsoft paid for the agency and what any holding company would shell out are vastly different figures — although WPP holds an edge over other holding companies because it has assets Microsoft might be interested in, namely the ad-serving technology bit of 24/7 Real Media.

Here’s how a deal could unfold, according to people familiar with the discussions: Microsoft unloads the agency in exchange for a WPP package that includes 24/7′s Open AdStream publisher ad-serving tool plus cash. While Avenue A’s price would be higher than most agency deals, very few interactive agencies with that kind of scale are available for acquisition.

Avenue A|Razorfish is an ad agency specializing in interactive media and is an uncomfortable fit for Microsoft which wants to make money from all advertisers and publishers without questions of favoritism about a house agency. Similarly, WPP Group is a holding company for advertising agencies and the Open AdStream ad serving tool doesn’t fit either.

Klaassen’s thesis is that since Microsoft overpaid for aQuantitive, it is going to be hard to find someone to pay for Avenue A|Razorfish anywhere near what Microsoft paid. That’s why a swap with WPP Group is a good fit since it is similarly believed to have overpaid for 24/7 Real Media and they could obfuscate the real value with a swap. I’m dubious as to how important that reason really is since acquisitions often result in a grab bag of extra pieces that are sold off at "bargain sale" valuations. Of course, since Avenue A|Razorfish accounted for 60% of aQuantive’s revenues, it is a trifle hard to see which is the tail and which is the dog.

In any case, beyond face-saving reasons, it seems like a good match. WPP specializes in owning ad agencies and Microsoft needs an ad serving service in their eternal quest to keep up with Google which is busy widening the beta of their competing (and free) Ad Manager service.



Filed under 24/7 Real Media, Acquisitions, Advertising, Coopetition, Google, Microsoft, WPP Group, aQuantive

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