So who's the loser – Microsoft, Google or AOL?

There’s been a major battle going on over the past weeks, that might have gone either way. Microsoft and AOL or Google and AOL?

Inside Microsoft seemed to feel it was all over on December 6 in a piece entitled MSN Wins AOL?

MarketWatch says they’ve heard that Microsoft is now closing a deal with AOL, although not to buy the division from Time Warner.

Time Warner Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are close to a deal to form an online-ad service rival to Google Inc., people familiar with the negotiations told The Wall Street Journal. Under the proposal, AOL would drop Google as its primary provider of Internet-search services and adopt Microsoft’s MSN service, the paper reported.

Might be a good time to sell Google stock. Google won’t be killed by the loss of AOL’s revenues, but the stock will take a short-term hit.
Roll forward two weeks and it’s Google and AOL who are inking a deal. Bits From Bill on December 17 comments on the deal .

The battle was on for the hearts and mind of AOL and its 20 million members.

The winner was Google although they’re not the only ones who will benefit if this deal succeeds. In return for a billion dollars Google gets a 5% share in AOL. Google will also continue to be the search engine of choice for AOL

The real winner will be AOL. A billion in cash is great Christmas bonus and it couldn’t come at a better time for budgets at AOL. AOL has been struggling with how to roll out content to the non-AOL internet. The exposure by Google will make it possible for AOL to make this transition. In return, Google will benefit from the rich content which includes a huge video library ripe for indexing.

Motives are always tough to discern in such a battle, particularly if two suitors are both hotly pursuing a fair maiden’s hand. I fear that Microsoft put AOL into the driving seat. So AOL could hold out for a great deal of icing on the cake Google was offering it. I doubt what Google wins from the association with AOL will outweight the costs of accepting a semi-portal approach involving an AOL presence. However the stock market doesn’t seem to agree and the Google share price is hitting new peaks as this is written.

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