Time Warner's America Online unit is still negotiating to use Microsoft's advertising technology instead of Google's, according to the latest...

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Time Warner’s America Online unit is still negotiating to use Microsoft’s advertising technology instead of Google’s, according to the latest batch of anonymous tips floated in the media.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the deal could be completed soon, and it’s now unlikely to involve Microsoft buying a stake in AOL.

Later Tuesday, Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons confirmed he’s negotiating with companies that would help transform AOL from a subscription-based business to one supported mostly by ad sales.

But Parsons denied AOL is for sale, according to an Associated Press report of his comments at a Los Angeles media briefing.

“We are not interested in selling AOL,” Parsons told AP.

Microsoft and AOL declined to comment.

Word of the negotiations surfaced in September, leading some to speculate Microsoft and Time Warner could go so far as to merge their MSN and AOL Internet service businesses.

Although historically rivals, Microsoft and Time Warner have worked more closely since a 2003 antitrust settlement. Time Warner dropped a suit brought by its Netscape Communications unit in return for an agreement by Microsoft to pay $750 million and share technology for seven years.

Now at stake is the search advertising technology AOL uses.

Currently, AOL uses Google technology, making it Google’s largest customer. But that may be up for renegotiation; the companies announced a “multiyear” partnership in 2003.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is rolling out its Googlesque “MSN adCenter” search and ad sales platform in the U.S. after testing it in France and Singapore.

Parsons will appear Thursday at a CSFB media conference in New York, but a spokesperson said he’s unlikely to announce a deal with Microsoft at that event.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

“Innovation Centers” to grow worldwide

Microsoft is expanding its global network of industry support centers from 60 to 90 locations in 30 countries.

Thirty new Microsoft Innovation Centers will open in 2006, executives announced at a company event Tuesday attended by Chairman Bill Gates and Asian government leaders in New Delhi, India.

The centers are intended to support companies partnering with Microsoft and to help governments expand local information-technology industries.

Existing centers are in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia and other countries. New centers are planned for South Korea, India and South Africa.

The expansion includes changes to support centers that operate under different names, such as “solution centers” or “.NET centers.” They will all be identified as Microsoft Innovation Centers, although their roles may be tailored to the needs of different locales.

At a forum for business leaders in New Delhi today, Gates was reported as saying Microsoft would increase its professional work force in India from 4,000 to 7,000 over the next three to four years.

Brier Dudley and The Associated Press

New software aims at Oracle clientele

Microsoft is releasing a new version of its customer-management program the company says will help take Oracle’s biggest clients.

The software adds new marketing and scheduling features, said Microsoft general manager Brad Wilson in a Dec. 2 interview. The program is the company’s first update since January 2004 and will be available by monthly subscription for the first time.

Microsoft, which has sold business-management software to companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, tailored versions of its latest product to companies of all sizes.

“This is the first application, other than Office, that Microsoft can really sell to large companies,” said Bruce Richardson, an analyst at AMR Research, a Boston-based technology research firm.

Bloomberg News