Microsoft's Ballmer on Yahoo and the Future

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talks about Microsoft's mission, how it has evolved, and the company's strategy for the future at a discussion Wednesday with The Washington Post. Video: Anna Uhls/washingtonpost.comEditor: Jacqueline Refo/
By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 5, 2008

In an animated discussion with Washington Post editors and reporters yesterday, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer offered his far-ranging views of upcoming changes in technology and the media.

Among other things, he confirmed that Microsoft's discussions with Yahoo have continued, predicted that in 10 years all media will be delivered via the Internet and professed that he is confused by Google's moves in the mobile-phone market.

Also, he said that his favorite TV show is "Lost," but he'd rather watch it for free -- with ads -- than pay for it on iTunes.

Q Is Microsoft no longer interested in buying Yahoo? What about the effort by billionaire Carl Icahn to take over Yahoo?

AWill something happen with Yahoo? Every day is a new day. We'll see what happens.

We had no contact with Carl Icahn before he bought his stake . . . Obviously, he has talked to some of our folks since then. He's kind of an independent actor in the thing.

We made an offer; there clearly was a bid-ask difference. We offered less than they wanted. We did move on. We've had some discussions subsequent to that. We have not re-engaged in the discussions about the acquisition of the whole company. We are discussing other forms of strategic cooperation. That's 100 percent accurate.

Was Yahoo co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang reluctant to make a deal because Microsoft's bid price was too low or because his ego was wrapped up in the company he started?

It's always impossible to tell. You sort of have to give people the benefit of the doubt. . . . We offered an incredibly generous premium versus where they were. Maybe some of these lawsuits will turn up interesting e-mail, but I don't think otherwise there will be any way to do the forensics of what was the real motive here.

What is your outlook for the future of media?

In the next 10 years, the whole world of media, communications and advertising are going to be turned upside down -- my opinion.

Here are the premises I have. Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.

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