Microsoft is looking to buy into the AOL division of Time Warner, which would certainly make for interesting bedfellows.
Microsoft, and most particularly their MSN and Hotmail brands, of course, directly compete with AOL. Indeed, the top four ISPs in the United States use the acronym AMEY to refer to themselves: AOL, Microsoft, Earthlink, and Yahoo (it used to be AMY, and then those three apparently realized that they had forgotten Earthlink).
According to the New York Post, “Microsoft would pay some money to Time Warner for the AOL stake, leaving the two companies approximately equal partners in the venture.”
But where would that leave the average Internet-user public? While this could in theory be very good for Earthlink, with MSN Hotmail no longer an alternative to AOL, and vice versa, for those who vote against corporate reputation with their feet, would it be generally good, or not? Or might it make no difference at all?
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Of course, that depends in part on how large the stake in AOL to be acquired by Microsoft, and if it gets to be too big, a Federal magistrate could end up stepping in (one hopes). One might also suspect that if AOL were an entirely autonomous company in its own right, rather than a division of Time-Warner, slightly louder bells and alarms might be going off right now than are.
From a financial perspective, at least one financial analyst thinks that this is just too early in the game for AOL to be courting suitors, Microsoft or otherwise. Richard Greenfield, of Fulcrum Global Partners, opined that “It feels to me like AOL is at the cusp of really proving itself from a portal perspective. I’m not sure why this is the moment to do it. They could get a much better valuation in a couple of months when they prove it more.”
Fulcrum expects that AOL could eventually be worth $15-$20billion dollars.
As usual, it’s the little guy who will get it in the end. If this goes through, it will be a coup for Microsoft, a windfall for Time Warner, and, potentially, a shaft for Internet users.
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