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Microsoft and Yahoo: Three Is Company, Too

It's been three months, 22 days and about 1 million breathless news stories since Microsoft first announced on Feb. 1 that it intended to buy online services giant Yahoo! for $44.6 billion.

And from that moment on, the takeover effort has played out like a bad episode of "Three's Company."

If you remember the late-'70s sitcom (and I pity you if you do), you know that it starred the late John Ritter and a newly discovered Suzanne Somers, who would go on to become a late-night infomercial legend with the ThighMaster franchise. But what set "Three's Company" apart wasn't the uproarious sexual innuendo, or the gratuitous physical comedy, or even the inspired casting of Don Knotts as a dimwitted landlord. It was that every plot line -- Every. Single. One. -- revolved around a shockingly obvious, artificial, almost infantile misunderstanding. The show was...relentless.

Which brings me back to Microsoft. The company has circled and sniffed at Yahoo! for years. The initial offer was a barely veiled threat wrapped in a $44.6 billion dollar velvet glove. Yahoo played coy, said no, and then said maybe, if it could have more dough. For its part, Microsoft threatened a hostile takeover, anted up, walked away, then stormed back again asking about a search deal (though it says a hostile takeover could still happen).

And then Carl Icahn showed up.

At this stage, it wouldn't surprise me if Jerry Yang wasn't scrambling to find places to hide members of Yahoo's board of directors, so Icahn can't find them and fire them. It's gotten that silly.

The problem, of course, is that software development isn't physical comedy. The parade of twists, slips and pratfalls that passed for plot on the set of "Three's Company" stands to ruin the productive effort of software development teams at both Microsoft and Yahoo. Heck, the software integration challenge posed by the initial takeover bordered on the biblical.

But, hey, maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe John Ritter tripping over the couch every other episode was really, really funny and I just didn't get it.

Natural-born cynics like the folks at underground blogger Mini-Microsoft seem to agree. They were were ecstatic when the Yahoo deal seemed dead. Now, they're terrified that the proposed search deal could bloom into another takeover attempt.

What do you think of the months-long saga of Microsoft and Yahoo? Is there a better sitcom we ought to be comparing it to? E-mail me at

Posted by Michael Desmond on 05/22/2008 at 1:15 PM

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