The great thaw between Microsoft and Yahoo is underway and may signal that the two sides are nudging closer together on a search deal after all.
On Yahoo's second quarter conference call---see all the details on the quarter---CEO Carol Bartz had the following to say about Microsoft's Bing search engine, which poached a smidge (0.4 percent) of market share from Yahoo in June:
I actually think Bing is a good product. I think they've done a good job, but unfortunately they are only a month into it. I think Microsoft should be given kudos for Bing.
Bartz then noted that it's unclear whether Bing would be able to retain users. Can you imagine Google execs giving Bing a little love? Nope. Bartz also gave an nod to search scale:
Of course scale matters on search. The real interesting issue is when there's a lot of volume. When get fewer clickthroughs and you have scale you get to monetize more. It absolutely does matter.
How would Yahoo get more scale? Partner with Microsoft. Now Bartz's comments weren't exactly glowing. But if you put her remarks in context with what she said a little more than a month ago it's clear that Yahoo's "Microsoft is evil" days are long gone.
Bartz in June said that Bing won't gain market share and will deliver only temporary interest. She said:
I don’t know if Bing means a whole lot to Yahoo. I think people will go to Bing because they are curious. I think they will get some uplift, but people will keep their same habits.
Bartz also said at the time that Yahoo doesn't have to do anything with Microsoft.
In just a few weeks Bartz went from dismissive of Bing to giving it props. It's unlikely that a mere 0.4 percent of market share caused that Bartz swing. Microsoft-Yahoo talks behind the scenes, however, could certainly cause the change in tone.