Microsoft and DoubleClick: What if Redmond wanted to lose?

Summary:What if Microsoft bluffed? What if the Microsoft didn't really want DoubleClick and simply wanted to bid up the price that Google had to pay to make its latest acquisition? I know I might sound like a Microsoft apologist trying to explain the DoubleClick loss. But think this through:

The pundits have spoken: Chalk up another win for Google and another loss for Microsoft in the bidding war for display-ad vendor DoubleClick.

Many industry watchers believe Google was wiling to pay a whopping $3.1 billion as much because of its desire to keep DoubleClick out of Microsoft's hands as for DoubleClick's customer and partner lists. And if you thought Microsoft was doomed before in the online advertising market, the Redmondians are really toast now thanks to the DoubleClick loss, some sages are claiming.

But what if Microsoft bluffed? What if the Microsoft didn't really want DoubleClick and simply wanted to bid up the price that Google had to pay to make its latest acquisition? I know I might sound like a Microsoft apologist trying to explain the DoubleClick loss. But think this through:

If you look at Microsoft's spending patterns, as of late, the company is leaning more toward doing less-than-$1-billion-sized acquisitions. In the increasingly rare cases when Microsoft does shell out big bucks (like close to $800 million for TellMe), it's because it envisions the target as a technology acquisition, not an advertising/customer acquisition. Did Microsoft view TellMe as more of a mobile-search purchase or a voice-technology buy? I'd bet the latter....

As Don Dodge, director of business development with Microsoft's Emerging Business Team, blogged:

"DoubleClick was a publicly traded company two years ago and valued at less than $1 billion. Anyone could have acquired DoubleClick, but a private equity firm took them private less than two years ago for $1.1 billion. They later sold off two divisions for $525 million. Yesterday Google paid $3.1 billion for what remained of DoubleClick. Why did Google wait two years and pay billions more?"

Sure, Dodge's reasoning could be nothing more than sour grapes... "Microsoft never really wanted 'em anyway!"

What do you think? Was DoubleClick a Microsoft bluff or a muff?

Topics: Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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