It’s been fun “watching” Steve Ballmer negotiate this week. First, in Brussels, he finally surrendered to Neelie Kroes, the EU’s competition commissioner, agreeing to comply with the EU’s ruling that Microsoft must allow open-source software developers access to interoperability information for its work-group servers, thus reducing the “Windows tax.” Then, popping up in Palo Alto and San Francisco, he triumphed over Google to gain the privilege of being the exclusive third-party “advertising platform partner” for social networking darling, Facebook. Microsoft sealed the deal with a $240 million equity stake.
It says a lot about what our society values when the hottest news of the day is Facebook’s $15 billion valuation. With “nearly 50 million active users” who attract others at a rate of 200,000 per day, the $240 million investment is a small price to pay for the value to Microsoft of keeping Google from grabbing more of the social networking turf and giving Microsoft a much-needed platform to expand its reach for both ad revenues and for its applications and utilities (Xbox, Microsoft Live, and Bill and Steve’s newest hot button—responding to iPhone with unified communications).