Microsoft still looking out for acquisitions

San Francisco, October 22:

Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer confirmed the software giant remains on the lookout for big money acquisitions - butwould be likely to buy many smaller technology firms over the coming months.

“We’ll probably buy 20 companies a year for the next four or five years,” he told an audience at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. “Most will be footnotes — we’re talking about acquisitions of $50 million, $100 million, $200 million. Those are good acquisitions that are important to us and of strategic value.” Microsoft recently spent $6 billion on aQuantive, a web advertising network, as it attempts to catch up with Google in the lucrative online ad market.

He said, “You’ve got to have a very strong advertising platform that delivers all payloads to all media with all business models: deliver toTVs, PCs, phones, and you want to be able to sell demographics and behaviour. I think the syndication business will get redefin-ed over the nextfive yea-rs.” Ballmer was optimi-stic that Microsoft could compete, comparing his company’s efforts to a child playing basketball.

“I would say, ‘hey, you’re just three years old and we’ve got you inthere playing basketball with the 12-year-olds,” he said. “You’re growing up quick and you’re getting better by the day. You might not be able to dunk right now, but when you’re six, seven or eight, you’re going todunk — and you’re going to dunk on the other guy so big.” Also at the conference, Meg Whitman, the chief executive of eBay admittedher disappointment at the handling of the purchase of Skype, the online telephony service it bought two years ago.

After failing to achieve its targets, the internet auction giant revalued its $4 billion takeover of Skype earlier this month. The London-based group — enabling people to make free phone calls over the web — had its price written down by $1.4 billion.

She said, “Obviously we’re disappointed by the writedown, but the price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” Skype’s founders caused a stir this month when they announced that they were stepping down from the company, netting themselves $530 million in the process. The writedown drastically affected earlier this week eBay’s quarterlyresults, a net loss of $936 million.

Whitman said that the company was committed to improving its auction and sales services and generating greater profits.