With Microsoft's top executives fanned out at public events around the globe today, reporters and investors tracked their every word on...

Share story

With Microsoft’s top executives fanned out at public events around the globe today, reporters and investors tracked their every word on the company’s bid for Yahoo — now more than a month old.

Early in the day, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told reporters that the current deal is still a good one. Presumably, that means the half cash, half stock offer that’s now worth $40.8 billion, down from $44.6 billion when it was made public Feb. 1 because Microsoft’s shares have slid since then.

“The deal makes sense with the price and structure we announced,” Ballmer said at a news conference in Hanover, Germany, site of one of the world’s biggest technology conferences. “We hope it becomes reality. There is a lot of merit for Microsoft and Yahoo, for Yahoo shareholders and for Microsoft shareholders, for advertisers and for consumers.”

Yahoo’s board of directors formally rejected Microsoft’s offer on Feb. 11, saying it “substantially undervalues” the company. Since then, the action on the deal has been behind the scenes as Yahoo sought alternative suitors and Microsoft worked on ways to pressure Yahoo to accept its bid.

Ballmer, according to coverage by Reuters, also said, “There’s been a range of dialogue and there’s a range of alternatives being considered. I think it’s best for me not to get into the detail.”

A company spokeswoman said Ballmer was referring to internal dialogue and alternatives, not conversations with Yahoo.

In Seattle, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates spoke at a conference highlighting SharePoint, the company’s fast-growing software for business collaboration and search, among other things. The big news was Microsoft’s offer of SharePoint as a service — meaning the software would be run in Microsoft’s data centers and accessed by its customers via the Internet on a subscription basis.

It’s the latest example of a broad shift in the software industry and Microsoft’s business models.

Gates was asked whether acquiring Yahoo would affect SharePoint.

“Well I don’t think whether or not we end up doing the Yahoo merger or not has any real direct impact on SharePoint,” he said. “Obviously, it represents the idea that we’re very serious about competing in consumer search. We think that’s a very important area.”

He was also asked how Microsoft would face competition, particularly from Google, as more software functions become online services.

He dismissed Google as a competitor for large businesses, saying, “they really don’t understand the special needs of business.” But he noted that the rival company has done extremely well in consumer search — an area where Microsoft is trying to catch up with the acquisition of Yahoo.

“Today, [Google’s] economic model is based on consumer search and having done an incredible job there,” Gates said. “And obviously, we’re investing in challenging them in that space, making sure that even as it grows, it gets to be more competitive than it is today.”

Not everyone was mining every opportunity for Yahoo details, however.

Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell spoke at a Morgan Stanley technology conference in Dana Point, Calif. Morgan Stanley is advising Microsoft on that deal. He mentioned Yahoo in passing a few times, noting that acquiring Yahoo would be one aspect of how software as a service becomes a bigger part of Microsoft’s business in the future.

The analyst hosting the conference gave Liddell an opportunity to close by covering anything that was missed in his presentation.

“Well, no one asked me about Yahoo, which is interesting,” he said. “But I’m sure everyone is vaguely interested in it. You know, their — “

The analyst, sarcastically, interjected, “What was that?”

“Yeah,” Liddell continued. “The small company that we’re looking to acquire.”

He said Microsoft looks at its options — something he is “incredibly systematic about” — every week “on the basis of what’s happening in the external market: what the opportunities for us are both in our customer businesses and through acquisitions.”

That will continue, “but there’s no news, per se, on Yahoo.”

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com