<IT WORLD> Internet domination dance becomes a crowd
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - In the ongoing battle for Internet domination, Microsoft
has put on the gloves to take on Yahoo should the company continue to reject
its takeover bid. A proxy fight has been threatened and a deadline set for an
acquisition agreement if Yahoo does not authorize its management to enter into
negotiations. Yahoo has been given three weeks until Microsoft heads directly
for its target's shareholders in an effort to replace the company's board of
The board held emergency meetings last weekend to discuss this latest Microsoft
move, but the current offer of just over US$29 a share will be rejected. A fall
in Microsoft's stock price makes the proposal worth slightly less than the
original bid of $31 per share. Yahoo chairman Jerry Yang stated publicly that
the board is open
to alternatives that "maximize" shareholder value, in other words a higher bid.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer refuses to raise the offer as no other
companies have made a bid or shown an interest in the Internet stalwart.
In a move possibly orchestrated to frustrate Microsoft even further, Yahoo has
agreed to an experimental ad sharing system with rivals Google. During the
two-week pilot, Google will be placing its own ads alongside 3% of all search
results pages generated by Yahoo. Microsoft responded by stating that any
permanent deal between the two Internet giants would not be in consumers'
interest since the deal would consolidate over 90% of the search advertising
market to Google, which already enjoys the lion's share of it. Analysts claim
that Yahoo has played a good card by forcing a higher bid from Microsoft on the
back of its increasing share prices, which rose 7% following the announcement
In the blue corner, the plot thickens as Microsoft and Rupert Murdoch's News
Corp are to enter into talks regarding a joint bid for Yahoo. Should it
proceed, this deal would create an Internet, news media, social networking and
advertising behemoth combining Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN, News Corp's MySpace and
Fox Interactive Media unit, a beast even the mighty Google empire would have a
hard time slaying.
With financial backing from Murdoch, Microsoft could effectively increase its
bid and put even more pressure onto Yahoo's shareholders.
Back in the red corner, there have been rumors and reports of a possible merger
between America Online and Yahoo. According to the Murdoch-owned Wall Street
Journal, the plan would offer Yahoo shareholders an alternative to Microsoft's
hostile bids and deadlines.
Under the terms being discussed, Time Warner would fold its AOL division into
Yahoo and, along with a cash investment, acquire about 20% of the total entity.
Yahoo would then use the cash to buy back its own stock in an effort to
increase share prices again and demand a higher bid.
So the drawn out game of cyber-chess continues, with neither side looking to
back down. As more players get drawn into the dance, the likelihood for the
future of the Internet is that there will be one entity that rules them all.
Well, we knew it would happen sooner or later - Google has finally been sued
over its online Street View images. A Pennsylvanian couple sued the search
giant, claiming that pictures of their house on the web had devalued the
The Franklin Park home was bought by Aaron and Christine Boring in October 2006
and has since appeared on Google's Street View service. The husband and wife
claim the pictures violate their privacy as they have been taken from their
long driveway, signposted "Private Road" - Google obviously didn't agree or did
not read the sign. A Google spokesman stated that property owners can get
images removed from the site if they can give a good enough reason and prove
The Borings' attorney said the point was that Google drove onto their property
to get the images, thus violating privacy. He added that removing the image
will not undo the damage or deter Google from doing it again elsewhere.
According to the county real estate website, which also has photos of the
house, the couple paid $163,000 for the 984 square meter home, a large portion
of which was for additional privacy.
Consequently, the couple were not amused to find panoramic views of their
swimming pool on the Internet. Google has yet to comment on the legal validity
of the case. The dangers of online privacy violations were highlighted in
Google eye too close for comfort (Asia Times Online, March 15, 2008)
when we examined the ramifications of the roving spy.
bit of good news from the Google Earth camp, the US company is to put its
skills to work in a more humanitarian way. A new partnership between Google and
the United Nations aims to utilize satellite technology to show greater detail
of refugee camps around the globe.
The initiative, launched in Geneva this week, will enable users to download an
application for the viewing of refugee hotspots such as Chad, Iraq and
Columbia. The potential to captivate a mass audience and help the world to
recognize the plight of people otherwise hidden from the public eye is the
driving force of the initiative.
Microsoft this week said it plans to extend its support of Windows XP, as many
users are still clinging to the diehard operating system because their machines
aren't powerful enough to run Vista.
Original plans were for the cessation of sales on June 30 this year following
the launch of Vista early last year. Subsequent to its launch in October 2001,
Windows XP has become the best-selling operating system ever, so persuading
people to upgrade has been an uphill battle for the software vendor.
At the same time, a slew of new low-cost PCs for the budget market simply does
not have the innards to run Vista. Part of the reprieve will allow computer
manufacturers to continue to preinstall Windows XP Home onto systems up until
mid-2010, or a year after Microsoft has rolled out its Vista successor, Windows
7. Bill Gates has hinted the possible release date for Windows 7 may be as
early as next year, although on past performance it is likely to emerge in 2010
Support will not extend to XP Pro or any other edition, which will come under
the ax this year as planned. The category of computer only applies to what
Microsoft considers to be low-end, so consumers will not be able to specify
that they want XP on any machine they order.
By Microsoft's own standards, a ULCPC (ultra low cost PC) will generally be
sub-$400 laptops such as the Asus Eee and those used by the One Laptop Per
Child program, which are expected to be popular in emerging markets such as
India and China.
Many of these lower-end machines were originally designed to run Linux, but
Microsoft states its decision to throw XP Home a lifeline is unrelated. Since
other versions of XP have not been given increased longevity, we find this
claim a little difficult to swallow.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.