Before my interview today with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, he glared at me when I told him what Yahoo's CEO Carol Bartz had to say about a potential partnership: I can't react to an offer or a deal when there's no offer or deal to react to, she said.
Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
When I asked him about this in the interview, he reiterated that a deal for all of Yahoo was no longer an option, and that even an acquisition of Yahoo's Search business didn't seem to be in the cards. Now, Microsoft is pursuing some kind of "partnership" instead. The funny thing about partnerships, Ballmer said, is that it takes two to craft one. No offer; no proposal. But a "partnership," which tells me that Yahoo investors hoping for some big time payday may not want to hold their breath.
Meantime, he did talk about the company's new search engine "Bing," which is getting glowing reviews from Forrester Research. Still, after playing with it for awhile, it's got some compelling features but it is hardly an imminent threat to Google. Which is a surprise since Microsoft continues to invest big in its Online Services unit, continues to lose enormous amounts of money, and continues to be a long way from offering any material, competition to Google.
There's been lots of rumors that Microsoft may buy SAP and go after Oracle. Ballmer says he has great respect for SAP, that it's been a good Microsoft partner over the years, and that the two had discussed a deal years ago. As far as some new deal in the works today? He was unusually cagey in his response and didn't want to go there.