Friday, February 15, 2008

Apple Logo "Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree"

Apple Logo

Apple Inc. has revolutionized personal computing since its founding in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak. For more than 30 years, Apple Computer has introduced groundbreaking products and accessories that truly defy the technological barriers. It has now become one of the world’s most famous computer brands and has introduced innovative products such as iPods, Macintosh, QuickTime, etc.

Apple Logo OldBeyond its strong line of pioneering products, lies an interesting and powerful corporate identity. Apple is probably the only company not to use its name in its logo. Yet, the Apple logo is one of the most recognized corporate symbols in the world. The first Apple logo was designed by Jobs and Wayne in 1976, featuring Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. It was inspired by a quotation by Wordsworth that was also inscribed into the logo that said: “Newton… a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought” with ‘Apple Computer Co.’ on a ribbon banner ornamenting the picture frame.

Apple Logo Rainbow That Apple logo was immediately changed by designer Rob Janoff into a multicolored apple with a bite taken out off its right side, better known as the “rainbow apple”. This was done to commemorate the discoveries of gravity (the apple) and the separation of light (the colors) done by Isaac Newton and possibly to tribute the ‘fruit of the Tree of Knowledge’ in Adam and Eve’s story. Even the term ‘Macintosh’ refers to a particular variety of an apple. But certain speculations exist about the proper meaning of the Apple logo. Some believe that the ‘rainbow colored’ Apple logo was used to advertise the color capability of the Apple II computer. Others, like author Sadie Plant of Zeroes and Ones, considers the Apple logo as homage to Alan Turning, the father of modern computing, who committed suicide using a cyanide-laced apple.

Apple Logo Aqua

For the last few years, the Apple logo has appeared in various colors (aqua color scheme was famous among all). But now Apple has discontinued the use of bright colors in the Apple logo, instead opting for white and raw-aluminum color schemes. The polished chrome logo seems to fit ideally. The silvery chrome finish in the new Apple logo is consistent with the design scheme and freshens up the icon. For whatever reason Apple Inc. had to revamp its logo, the new Apple logo got a hearty endorsement by the customers and critics around the world. It can widely be seen on all Apple products and retail stores; and has become one of the world’s most renowned brand symbols.

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Google Logo “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”

Google Logo

Google’s mission statement is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Since the beginning, Google has closely and zealously worked towards achieving the goal of providing relevant information and innovative products to its customers. Saying that, Google has now become a leader of the web-search industry.Google began as a research project in 1996 by two Stanford University’s Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It was initially nicknamed “BackRub”, and had many different logos overtime. However, the current Google logo was designed by Ruth Kedar, which consists of the name “Google” in logotype based on the Catull typeface. It has now become the official logo of Google Inc.; a company specializing in Internet search and online marketing.

The word “Google”, in the Google logo originates from the misspelling of ‘googol’, which refers to 10100 (that is the number represented by a 1 followed by one-hundred zeros). The name is the only element of the Google logo and is used with different variations and modifications depending on the occasion/s. The company uses features that compliment and refer to specific holidays like Christmas, 4th of July, Mother’s Day etc.; birthdays of famous personalities like Albert Einstein, Leonardo Di Vinci, Edward Munch, etc.; and major events like the Olympics, Football World Cup, elections, etc. These special modifications of the Google logo are known as Google Doodles were first designed by the creators of the company in 1999.

The Google Logo demonstrates a very powerful and diverse brand. Though the services offered by Google Inc. vary, its logo brands the company.

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nike log for $50

Nike Logo

Nike Swoosh LogoFrom humble beginnings to a promising future, Nike Inc. has expanded its horizons to every corner of the world. From athletic shoes to sports equipment and from apparel to accessories, Nike has revolutionized the sportswear industry. Endorsed by superstar athletes like Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, the Williams sisters and many more, Nike is complimented by its mission of ‘bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’.

Simple, Fluid and Fast. These are the words used to describe the “Swoosh” in the Nike logo that has become one of the most recognized symbols in the world. The first Nike logo was designed by Carolyn Davidson in 1971 for just $35. Phil Knight, founder of Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc., hired Davidson to design a logo for a shoe stripe. Though the design did not enthrall Knight due to time constraints, the Nike ‘Swoosh’ logo was selected.

The Nike SWOOSH logo represents the wing in the famous statue of the Greek Goddess of victory, Nike, who was the source of inspiration for many great and courageous warriors. According to legends, a Greek would say, "When we go to battle and win, we say it is Nike."

Originally, the mark was referred to as ‘the strip’ but was later changed to ‘Swoosh’ to describe the fibers used in Nike shoes. In the spring of 1972, the first shoe with the Nike SWOOSH Logo was introduced. Later, the Nike logo got registered as a trademark in 1995 and has become the corporate identity of Nike Inc. Apart from that, the Nike logo has been a sole contributor in the overall success of the brand.

Nike Logo history

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Yahoo rejects Microsoft's bid

update Yahoo on Monday announced that it is rejecting Microsoft's multibillion-dollar buyout offer, saying that it undervalues the company.

The announcement had largely been expected, as reports emerged over the weekend such a decision had been made by Yahoo's board of directors.

"Yahoo's board of directors has carefully reviewed Microsoft's unsolicited proposal with Yahoo's management team, and financial and legal advisers, and has unanimously concluded that the proposal is not in the best interests of Yahoo and our stockholders," the company said in a statement Monday.

"After careful evaluation, the board believes that Microsoft's proposal substantially undervalues Yahoo, including our global brand, large worldwide audience, significant recent investments in advertising platforms and future growth prospects, free cash flow, and earnings potential, as well as our substantial unconsolidated investments," the company further noted.

Yahoo said its board will continue to evaluate its strategic options and pursue a path to "maximize value for all stockholders."

Microsoft, which on February 1 offered a cash-and-stock deal initially valued at $44.6 billion, is likely to already have contingency plans, such as attempting to create a board of directors that would be friendlier to a Microsoft deal, said proxy solicitors.

Yahoo's annual nomination process for board elections is set to start Wednesday and run through March 14, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Each year, all 10 of Yahoo's board seats are up for grabs.
If Microsoft walked away from its offer, where do you think the stock would go?
--Kevin Landis,
chief investment officer,
Firsthand Capital Management

Microsoft may already be eyeing those seats.

"If they haven't done it already, they're in the process of assembling an appropriate slate," said Bruce Goldfarb, a veteran proxy solicitor. "It's fair to assume they will run for board seats, and it won't take them long to fill the slate. We're talking Microsoft here. They have resources and access to countless high-quality candidates to be a director."

Should Microsoft move forward in launching a proxy fight, it's difficult to say whether it will stake its flag early in the four-week window or wait closer to March 14. Timing is based on the state of negotiations, as well as the personalities who are pushing for a merger, Goldfarb said.

"By launching it early, it says, 'We're serious and ready to go. The pressure is on, and we can always pull back, but know we are there,'" Goldfarb said, adding, "Personality is always a factor in a proxy fight decision. It has a strong effect on how a decision is made."

Should Microsoft launch a hostile bid for Yahoo, one proxy solicitor said, it's likely that Yahoo will go to the Department of Justice and lodge complaints over antitrust issues related to a merged company.
Special coverage
Yang's e-mail to Yahoo staff
CEO Jerry Yang sends his troops an e-mail explaining how Microsoft's bid "substantially undervalues Yahoo."

In the current regulatory environment, Microsoft may surmise that its merger proposal will not be blocked. But Microsoft is also aware that the situation could change after national elections this fall, according to a proxy solicitor who requested anonymity.

Similar measures were taken by PeopleSoft, which nearly five years ago found itself the takeover target of a hostile bid by Oracle.

Although the Department of Justice stepped in and filed a lawsuit to block the merger, the agency was ultimately overruled by a federal judge in San Francisco. The 18-month saga eventually ended in late 2004, when PeopleSoft accepted Oracle's offer, valued at $10.3 billion.

Yahoo's institutional investors are eyeing Microsoft's offer and weighing their options. Should the software giant prevail--either through a proxy contest or tender offer--and a vote is put to Yahoo shareholders, one institutional investor said he would probably take the money.

"They're offering a lot more than the market was willing to pay before their offer. If Microsoft walked away from its offer, where do you think the stock would go?" said Kevin Landis, chief investment officer of Firsthand Capital Management, which manages more than $600 million in assets.

Firsthand's Yahoo stake amounts to more than 300,000 shares, of which half are held in its flagship Firsthand Technology Value fund.

Landis noted that should Yahoo ultimately pass on Microsoft's offer, it may take a year for the stock to rise back to the level of Microsoft's bid. And during that time, investors could have taken Microsoft's cash and reinvested it in other beaten down but promising technology stocks, Landis said.

Yahoo's shares dipped slightly to $29.55 in morning trading as Yahoo released news that it rejected Microsoft's offer. But its share price is still substantially higher than the $19.18 closing price on January 31, a day before Microsoft's buyout bid.

Since late October, Yahoo's share price has fallen off its 52-week high of $34.08 per share.

Firsthand has owned its Yahoo stake for about a year, purchased in part because of Yahoo's launch of its long-awaited Panama search-advertising platform in late 2006; its ownership stake in Chinese business-to-business site, which had a tremendous IPO on the Hong Kong exchange in November; Yahoo's balance sheet; and its "reasonably" priced stock, Landis said.

Although Yahoo's stock has underperformed during that time, Firsthand has largely maintained its ownership stake in the company. But Landis said he would probably take Microsoft's money, if given a chance.

One thing that Landis, as well as other institutional investors would have to contend with if they own both Yahoo and Microsoft, is what to do with their Microsoft position.

Firsthand has owned Microsoft shares for years, although it's a smaller stake than its Yahoo holdings. Landis, as well as other similarly situated investors will have to consider whether to sell off some of their newly inherited Microsoft position, should a deal go through, or increase the percentage of Microsoft shares in their portfolio.
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"Microsoft is already pretty much where we want our position," Landis said. "There could be some selling pressure on Microsoft, but all the (arbitragers) have figured that out."

Since announcing its Yahoo bid, Microsoft's shares have fallen roughly 14 percent, to about $28 this morning.

Cambiar Investors is one Microsoft shareholder that liquidated its holdings after the Yahoo buyout bid news.

"We...liquidated on the news," said Brian Barish, Cambiar president. "Microsoft knows even less about the Internet than Yahoo. I can't see how they can make the business better.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hacker. Dropout millioner. CEO

I'm just lucky to be alive." Mark Zuckerberg, the 22-year-old founder and CEO of social-networking site Facebook, is talking about the time he came face-to-face with the barrel of a gun. It was the spring of 2005, and he was driving from Palo Alto to Berkeley.

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Just a few hours earlier, he had signed documents that secured a heady $12.7 million in venture capital to finance his fledgling business. It was a coming-of-age moment, and he was on his way to celebrate with friends in the East Bay. But things turned weird when he pulled off the road for gas. As Zuckerberg got out of the car to fill the tank, a man appeared from the shadows, waving a gun and ranting. "He didn't say what he wanted," Zuckerberg says. "I figured he was on drugs." Keeping his eyes down, Zuckerberg said nothing, got back into his car, and drove off, unscathed.

Today, it is an episode that he talks about only reluctantly. (A former employee spilled the beans.) But it fits the road he has taken--an adventure with unexpected, sometimes harrowing, moments that has turned out better than anyone might have predicted.

Zuckerberg's life so far is like a movie script. A supersmart kid invents a tech phenomenon while attending an Ivy League school--let's say, Harvard--and launches it to rave reviews. Big shots circle his dorm to make his acquaintance; he drops out of college to grow his baby and Change The World As We Know It. Just three years in, what started as a networking site for college students has become a go-to tool for 19 million registered users, including employees of government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. More than half of the users visit every day. When a poorly explained new feature brought howls of protests from users--some 700,000--the media old and new jumped to cover the backlash. But Facebook emerged stronger than ever. According to comScore Media Metrix, which tracks Web activity, it is now the sixth most-trafficked site in the United States--1% of all Internet time is spent on Facebook. ComScore also rates it the number-one photo-sharing site on the Web, with 6 million pictures uploaded daily. And it is starting to compete with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and other tech titans as a destination for top young engineering talent in Silicon Valley. Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer, says it is on track to bring in $100 million in revenue this year--serious money indeed.

Yet there is an undercurrent of controversy about whether Mark Zuckerberg is making the right decisions about the juggernaut he has created. Late last year, a blog called TechCrunch posted documents said to be a part of an internal valuation of Facebook by Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO). The documents projected that Facebook would generate $969 million in revenue, with 48 million users, by 2010. The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) and others reported that Yahoo had made a $1 billion offer to buy Facebook--and Zuckerberg and his partners had turned it down. This followed an earlier rumor of a $750 million offer from Viacom (NYSE:VIA). Yahoo, Viacom, and Facebook would not comment on the deal talk (and they still won't). But Silicon Valley has been abuzz ever since.

"It's all been very interesting," deadpans Zuckerberg, sitting in a conference room in Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters. He looks every bit the geek in his zippered brown sweatshirt, baggy khakis, and Adidas sandals. He came into the room eating breakfast cereal from a paper bowl with a plastic spoon. He still lives in a rented apartment, with a mattress on the floor and only two chairs and a table for furniture. ("I cooked dinner for a girlfriend once," he admits at one point. "It didn't work well.") He walks or bikes to the office every day.

Zuckerberg's college-kid style reinforces the doubts of those who see the decision to keep Facebook independent as a lapse in judgment. In less than two years, the two reigning Web 2.0 titans have sold out to major corporations: MySpace accepted $580 million to join News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), and YouTube took $1.5 billion from Google. Surely any smart entrepreneur would jump at a chance to piggyback on those deals.

Looming over the Facebook talk is the specter of Friendster, the first significant social-networking site. It reportedly turned down a chance to sell out to Google in 2002 for $30 million, which if paid in stock, would be worth about $1 billion today. Now Friendster is struggling in the Web-o-sphere, having been swiftly eclipsed by the next generation of sites. The same thing could happen to Facebook. New social-networking sites are popping up every day. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) bought Five Across, which sells a software platform for social networking to corporate clients. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is beta-testing a site named Wallop. Even Reuters is planning to launch its own online face book, targeting fund managers and traders.

So is Zuckerberg being greedy--holding out for a bigger money buyout? If so, will that come back to haunt him? If not, what exactly is his game plan?

Zuckerberg's answer is that he's playing a different kind of game. "I'm here to build something for the long term," he says. "Anything else is a distraction." He and his compatriots at the helm of the company--cofounder and VP of engineering Dustin Moskovitz, 22, his roommate at Harvard, and chief technology officer Adam D'Angelo, 23, whom he met in prep school--are true believers. Their faith: that the openness, collaboration, and sharing of information epitomized by social networking can make the world work better. You might think they were naive, except that they're so damn smart and have succeeded in a way most people never do. From a ragtag operation run out of sublet crash pads in Palo Alto, they now have two buildings (soon to be three) of cool gray offices and employ 200 people who enjoy competitive salaries and grown-up benefit packages--not to mention three catered meals a day with free laundry and dry cleaning thrown in. And they continue to crank out improvements to a Web site that is in every meaningful way a technological marvel.

Right now, the folks who fronted Zuckerberg that $12.7 million back in the spring of 2005 and the other venture investors whose money and connections have helped juice Facebook's growth describe themselves as content. After all, since news of the Yahoo deal surfaced, the user base has continued to boom, arguably increasing Facebook's value. But when those money guys start agitating to realize a gain on their investment, can a sale--or more likely an IPO--be far behind?

"What most people think when they hear the word 'hacker' is breaking into things."

Zuckerberg admits to being a hacker--but only if he's sure you understand that the word means something different to him. To him, hacker culture is about using shared effort and knowledge to make something bigger, better, and faster than an individual can do alone. "There's an intense focus on openness, sharing information, as both an ideal and a practical strategy to get things done," he explains. He has even instituted what he calls "hackathons" at Facebook--what others might call brainstorming sessions for engineers.

But it was old-fashioned breaking-and-entering hacking that spawned Facebook--and Zuckerberg was the culprit. Zuckerberg grew up in the well-to-do New York suburb of Dobbs Ferry, the second of four kids and the only son of a dentist (he has no cavities) and a psychiatrist (insert your own mental-health joke here). He began messing around with computers early on, teaching himself how to program. As a high school senior, at Phillips Exeter Academy, he and D'Angelo built a plug-in for the MP3 player Winamp that would learn your music listening habits, then create a playlist to meet your taste. They posted it as a free download and major companies, including AOL (NYSE:TWX) and Microsoft, came calling. "It was basically, like, 'You can come work for us, and, oh, we'll also take this thing that you made,'" Zuckerberg recalls. The two decided to go to college instead, D'Angelo to Caltech and Zuckerberg to Harvard.

"I'm here to build something for the long term. Anything else is a distraction. "
-Mark Zuckerberg

That's where the hacking episode occurred. Harvard didn't offer a student directory with photos and basic information, known at most schools as a face book. Zuckerberg wanted to build an online version for Harvard, but the school "kept on saying that there were all these reasons why they couldn't aggregate this information," he says. "I just wanted to show that it could be done." So one night early in his sophomore year, he hacked into Harvard's student records. He then threw up a basic site called Facemash, which randomly paired photos of undergraduates and invited visitors to determine which one was "hotter" (not unlike the Web site Hot or Not). Four hours, 450 visitors, and 22,000 photo views later, Harvard yanked Zuckerberg's Internet connection. After a dressing-down from the administration and an uproar on campus chronicled by The Harvard Crimson, Zuckerberg politely apologized to his fellow students. But he remained convinced he'd done the right thing: "I thought that the information should be available." (Harvard declined to comment on the episode.)

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo the mother of all clusterbombs

Seeing how I need to be in tip-top condition to view a New York Giants' upset on Sunday, I've settled on "clusterbombs."

You get the idea.

Am I being overly grumpy? Since we're going into Super Bowl weekend, I was reminded that when the Dallas Cowboys traded Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in October 1989, most football experts thought the Cowboys got the raw end of the deal. They had dealt away perhaps the best running back in the game in return for a collection of no-name role players and six future draft picks. The upshot: Dallas won three of the next eight Super Bowls while the Vikings are still on the schneid.

But software is a harder contact sport than football, and for Microsoft to pull this off, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will need to throw one hell of a hail mary pass. Naturally, the big money players are rooting for him to be successful. This is a deal armchair strategists and Wall Street stock pumpers have been in love with for the last couple of years. Yahoo's been a weak stock and they'd love to make a profit on what's been a lousy investment.
This is a deal armchair strategists and Wall Street stock pumpers have been in love with for the last couple of years. Yahoo's been a weak stock and they'd love to make a profit on what's been a lousy investment.

Take a gander at the early analyst reactions pulled together by Henry Blodget over at Silicon Alley Insider:

Imran Khan at JP Morgan: "Microsoft and Yahoo will likely encounter little resistance from regulators, since their combined share of the search market would only be around 30% compared to Google's 60%. The combination would give Microsoft much needed scale, which would be invaluable in challenging Google...Further, we believe the increased scale of the combined search entity would lead to improved monetization due to a number of advertisers, which positively impact coverage, click-through rates, and pricing. Microsoft's command of access points through Windows, Xbox, and Internet Explorer would enable it channel yet more search. This is a crucial synergy."

Citi's Mark Mahaney: "For Microsoft or any other company seeking to gain scale in Internet advertising, Yahoo is an obvious strategic choice given its position as one of the top 3 Web properties worldwide." Citi cautioned against over-enthusiasm, noting that while the prospective merger would "pose a greater competitive risk to Google. But near-term, we'd be skeptical that search users' overwhelming preference for Google would change."

Sandeep Aggarwal, Oppenheimer: "We believe that in the long run both Microsoft and Yahoo as a combined company might emerge as a stronger competitor for Google, but lots of developments would have to take place before that happens.

• Google owns nearly 75% of the search market and Microsoft and Yahoo together own nearly 18% of search marketing.

• Display advertising is the second largest online ad format at 33% of total worldwide online advertising. Google currently owns less than 2% of the display market (with DoubleClick this would increase) and Microsoft and Yahoo together own nearly 30% of display market.

• With this move, the likelihood of the EU rejecting Google's acquisition of DoubleClick goes down.

• Regarding VCLK, as the largest independent ad network, we view them as a beneficiary of industry consolidation and a leading takeout target."

And on paper, at least, you could make a plausible argument on behalf of doing a deal. Ballmer gave voice to the bigger-is-better crowd, contending on the conference call earlier Friday that the combination will translate into increased scale and capacity (at least from a consumer perspective).

In other words, 1 plus 1 equals 2 (and whatever extra can be squeezed out). That equation may add up in the field of standard mathematics, but this is the real world. The deal makers at Microsoft say they know what they're doing but they're competing against history. Even if a reconstituted "MicroYahoo" doesn't wind up in the Bonehead Hall of Fame along such stinkers as Excite@Home, (which saddled us with Mark Cuban forever!), Compaq-DEC, and, of course, AOL-Time Warner, this will be a huge headache.
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Yahoo had its day in the sun. That's over. These days Yahoo is a severely dysfunctional, overstuffed company riddled by an indecisive bureaucracy.

Jerry Yang, who last year returned to take the helm after Terry Semel got sent into a platinum retirement, doesn't have a clue how to dig the company out of its hole. If he wasn't the guy to run Yahoo when Tim Koogle was CEO, why is Yang the guy to be No. 1 now? Since taking over, he's mumbled his way into a bigger disappointment that I ever expected. From a Yahoo perspective, the best thing now would be to take the lifeline tossed its way from Microsoft and let Ballmer handle the mess that awaits.

So if Microsoft ends up with the prize, save the early celebrations. The uneven track record of big technology deals over the last decade or so suggests that this will tax the company's managerial talents more than at any point in Microsoft's history. Don't forget that the impetus behind the buyout bid stems from Microsoft's woeful inability to compete against Google. Is Steve Ballmer really that much smarter than Steve Case?

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Microsoft bids $44.6 billion for Yahoo

update Microsoft went public Friday with a $44.6 billion cash-and-stock bid to acquire Yahoo.

In its response, Yahoo called the Microsoft bid "unsolicited" but did not reject it.

Microsoft's offer, which was contained in the letter to Yahoo's board, amounts to $31 a share and represents a 62 percent premium over Yahoo's closing price on Thursday. Microsoft said it will offer shareholders the option of cash or stock.

"We have great respect for Yahoo, and together, we can offer an increasingly exciting set of solutions for consumers, publishers, and advertisers while becoming better positioned to compete in the online-services market," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement. Poll
Should Microsoft be allowed to buy Yahoo?

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Yahoo said in a responding statement that its board "will evaluate this proposal carefully and promptly, in the context of Yahoo's strategic plans, and pursue the best course of action to maximize long-term value for shareholders."

The deal comes as Microsoft and Yahoo have both struggled to compete against Google.

Microsoft didn't mention Google by name in its announcement, but it did indicate that its acquisition bid was aimed squarely at its rival.

"Today, the market is increasingly dominated by one player, who is consolidating its dominance through acquisition," Microsoft said. "Together, Microsoft and Yahoo can offer a credible alternative."

In a conference call Friday morning, Ballmer said that Microsoft and Yahoo "really do share a vision for the potential of online services."

Microsoft said in its statement that it believes that it can get all of the needed regulatory approvals and that the deal, if ultimately approved by Yahoo shareholders, could be completed in the second half of the year.

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research, said it's "clear that there is increased pressure on Microsoft from Google, and they recognize that. Way back when, Yahoo wasn't that interested in a Microsoft deal. What a difference two years make. Microsoft has a pile of money, and Yahoo has experienced problems of its own. Ballmer, in the past, has historically not loved these types of deals. It is indicative of how different the world is now."

Gartenberg added that the deal "absolutely" makes sense. "But there is a lot to be done in the details. Getting this deal done might be the easiest part. The real challenge is what happens when they finish the deal. This is not a panacea--the details will be what matters," he said.

Rumors that Microsoft was interested in Yahoo have bubbled up from time to time, including the past two springs, on the eve of Microsoft advertising conferences.

The move would be by far the largest acquisition ever for Microsoft. Its largest prior deal, also in the online-advertising space, was last year's $6 billion deal to acquire Aquantive.

Asked on the conference call why Microsoft still needs Yahoo after buying Aquantive, Ballmer pointed to Yahoo's reach with consumers.

"Certainly from a consumer perspective, there's no better way to increase scale and capacity than this acquisition," Ballmer said.

Microsoft also pointed to the intense investments needed in data centers and technology needed to compete with Google.

"Scale matters," said Kevin Johnson, president of the Microsoft division that houses Windows and online advertising. "Some of the scale economics can kick in rather rapidly."

Ultimately, Ballmer said, the deal should help Microsoft become profitable in online advertising.

"We've been losing money," Ballmer said. "Our plan would be to not lose money in the future."

In a letter sent to Yahoo's board late Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that it has had talks with Yahoo since 2006 but that its suggestions of an acquisition had been rebuffed.

"In late 2006 and early 2007, we jointly explored a broad range of ways in which our two companies might work together," Microsoft said. "These discussions were based on a vision that the online businesses of Microsoft and Yahoo should be aligned in some way to create a more effective competitor in the online marketplace. We discussed a number of alternatives ranging from commercial partnerships to a merger proposal, which you rejected."

The letter goes on to say that an offer in February 2007 was also rejected. Although at one time, Microsoft was open to other kinds of partnerships with Yahoo, the company says now it just wants to own Yahoo outright.

"While a commercial partnership may have made sense at one time, Microsoft believes that the only alternative now is the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo that we are proposing," Microsoft said in the letter.

In the conference call, Ballmer said that when Microsoft first talked to Yahoo more than a year ago, it believed that a merger would have benefits to both companies.

"We believe now in those benefits more than ever," Ballmer said.

The public offer follows Yahoo's disappointing earnings report on Tuesday, which sent the company's shares down. Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang said Tuesday that the company is facing "headwinds." He also announced 1,000 layoffs.

Terry Semel, Yahoo's former CEO, who left that position last summer but remained as nonexecutive chairman of the board, left the company altogether on Thursday.

Microsoft's move validates Yahoo's value and could bring out other prospective buyers, said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land. However, Microsoft doesn't have enough of a plan as to how it would integrate Yahoo into the company, he said.

Unlike with Microsoft's Aquantive and Tellme acquisitions, Microsoft and its Live brands have a lot of overlap with Yahoo, including e-mail, portal, advertising, and search.

"Microsoft suffers in that they are conflicted over two different brands, and now they're going to have to be conflicted over three," Sullivan said. "If Microsoft wants to be a leader in search, this is a way for them to climb up and be No. 2 against Google. And it validates that Yahoo isn't a loser. It's a company that's worth a lot of money."
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A merger might give Google some extra competition, but it wouldn't unseat it as the top search provider, and it would take some time to convince advertisers that they would do better on a Microsoft-Yahoo platform over Google's highly successful ad business, said Mark Mahaney of Citigroup.

"If Yahoo wants to remain independent, it will need to show investors that it is willing to take radical, value-creating steps," and outsourcing search to Google is one of its few options, Mahaney wrote in a research note.

Imran Khan of J.P. Morgan Securities thinks that regulators will approve the deal.

"Yahoo is better off inside a larger company with (a) strong balance sheet and technology," Khan wrote in a research note. A merger of Microsoft and Yahoo could give them the scale, in terms of search traffic, that they need to compete against Google and provide a boost on the ad side, he added.

"A combination of Yahoo's relationships (with DSL providers), and Microsoft's applications and devices, could create a very well positioned potential competitor," Khan wrote.

Microsoft's financial advisers are Morgan Stanley and The Blackstone Group.

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